Saturday 29 May 2010

When a picture is worth a thousand words

The meaning of the phrase “a picture's worth a thousand words” was made manifest at this week’s hearings on Bill C-391, the Conservatives’ latest attempt to murder the long-gun registry, a registry the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled to be an essential component of our gun safety system. Tune into the House of Commons hearings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) at; around 1hr 51 minutes into the session, Bloc Quebecois MP and SECU member Maria Mourani brandishes the attached image of Gary Mauser, appearing as a private individual, though he was in fact appointed in 2007 to the government’s firearms advisory committee (FAC). Mourani shows Mauser the photo, verifies it is of him, and asks how many guns he owns.

“I’m not sure,” Mauser responds.

She presses a bit more—“How many shotguns do you have?...You have guns but you don’t remember how many?”

Mauser finally responds lamely, “I’m getting old.”

“By contrast, you aren’t too old to carry a weapon like this, though,” she counters.

“…the photographer asked me to pose like this and I resisted. And obviously, I should have resisted harder,” he admits.

“So you’re the big advisor on issues that concern firearms,” Mourani finishes. The photo shows Mauser aiming but Mourani’s the one who scored the direct hit.

The photo illustrated Susan Delacourt’s 2007 Toronto Star article “Panel loaded with gun buffs,” about the then-new makeup of the Conservative’s FAC. Originally from the Canadian National Firearms Association website, the image was, for obvious reasons, quickly removed. But it haunts us still, as does Mauser’s committee, which was, Delacourt wrote, “appointed and operating in virtual secrecy…made up almost entirely of pro-gun advocates opposed to the firearms registry.”

Mauser is touted as an emeritus professor and éminence grise of Canada's gun lobby. In 2006, when the Conservative government cleansed the FAC of police organization representatives, suicide prevention experts, women's and health advocates, they then appointed gun dealers and people like Mauser and Tony Bernardo, head of the Canadian branch of the US National Rifle Association (NRA). In 2001, Bernardo crowed to his Canadian Institute for Legislative Action (CILA), “We have been working hand in hand with the NRA regarding international issues for the past three and a half fact, the NRA was instrumental in the formation of CILA…the NRA provides CILA with tremendous amounts of logistic support.”

By an amazing coincidence, the NRA's lobby arm is called the Institute for Legislative Action.

Okay, maybe it isn’t a coincidence.

Bernardo also appeared before SECU last week. Interestingly, CILA’s website doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2008, but the website of an allied group, the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA) carries an endorsement by Wayne LaPierre, NRA Executive VP: “The NRA of America supports and endorses the work done by the CILA and strongly encourages all Canadian firearms owners to become CILA supporting members.” Another recent posting has LaPierre saying repeal of Canada’s long-gun registry would be “huge on the world stage and made all the more significant as a backdrop in the pending debate on the United Nations' global gun ban…As my friend and colleague Dave Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute in Colorado, astutely noted, ‘Repeal of the Canadian registry would be of tremendous global significance. Repeal would also shatter the claim by the Canadian gun prohibition lobby that gun control in Canada is an irreversible ratchet.’”

These two themes—the derailing of the UN’s international treaty limiting trade in small arms (responsible for about a thousand deaths daily), and that gun control anywhere threatens the right to bear arms everywhere--are traditional NRA bugaboos, as discussed in the New York Times by Josh Kurlantzick, special correspondent for The New Republic and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (see “Global Gun Rights?”, NYT, September 17, 2006).

Ostensibly, the NRA constitution prevents it from giving money to groups outside the USA but according to Kurlantzick, the NRA stopped openly fighting gun control abroad because it “enabled gun-control advocates to accuse local gun lobbies of selling out to America.”

Instead, the NRA counsels indigenous gun lobbies to recast restrictions on gun ownership as threats to civil liberties. Indeed, Al Dorans, CILA’s 2001 operations director is on record noting that CILA and the NRA “shared a belief in the existence of a worldwide conspiracy to rid the world civilian population of small arms such as hunting and sport rifles, shotguns and handguns,” according to a 2001 article by Tim Naumetz for Southam Newspapers. The NRA has also repeatedly given “lobbying seminars” during Canadian election campaigns.

Though Bill C-391 masquerades as a private member's bill, when ministers of the Crown speak on behalf of a bill and spend money on fliers attacking opposition members for their stance on a bill, well, if it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it's a friggin’ duck. And, as NRA style paranoia spreads, it is clear that the organization is up to its eyeballs in Canada’s gun lobby, and has been for some time.

Friday 21 May 2010

Canada's long-gun registry cost-effective life saver

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance," said Derek Bok, president of Harvard University president for over 20 years.

A similar analogy applies to the long-gun registry, as activists and objective observers alike are making clear.

In 1995, Ted Miller turned his attention to the costs associated with gun violence in Canada. Miller is an internationally recognized safety economist and leading expert on injury incidence, costs and consequences, with more than 150 studies and more than 200 scholarly publications under his belt.

The cost estimates he produces are used by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Justice Department and several foreign governments.

Miller's look at gunshot wounds in Canada, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, estimated that gunshot wounds in 1991 cost Canada $6.6 billion (in 1993 dollars). That represents about $8.95 billion in today's money.

Miller found about $63 million was associated with medical and mental health costs, $10 million on public services, and that productivity losses exceeded $1.5 billion; the remaining dollar value was attributed to "pain, suffering and lost quality of life."

Clearly, even the dollar costs of gun violence are considerable. Not to mention the non-monetary costs of "pain, suffering and lost quality of life."

Fast-forward to 2003. The CMAJ issues an editorial in support of gun registration in Canada, saying dismantling the long gun registry would be, "a serious mistake ... (because) registration is a key part of the strategy to reduce mortality and morbidity resulting from the misuse of privately owned guns and the legal trade in firearms."

The editorial emphasizes 80 per cent of firearm deaths are due to suicides, 15 per cent to homicides and four per cent are accidental.

So injuries and deaths of just over 200 people per year account for costs of nearly $9 billion.

You don't have to be a Harvard president to understand that gun violence is a significant Canadian social problem. And that successful efforts to curtail it should be lauded, not destroyed.

Whatever overruns may have been associated with the registry's setup, it now annually costs only $3 million to $4 million. If it prevents even one or two gunshot injuries, it may well have already paid for itself.

A new website,, describes the registry's successes and counters gun lobby lies.

Today, as in the days of Miller's analysis, "The vast majority of firearm deaths in Canada are not gang-related, but occur when an ordinary citizen becomes suicidal or violent, often under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or during a personal crisis such as marital breakdown or job loss. When firearms are available, domestic homicides are more likely to involve multiple victims and end in suicide," says a recent statement from 28 Canadian health organizations and 33 individuals.

The statement "Firearms Control and Injury Prevention: The gun registry is a good investment" also describes the results since the registry's advent: "an astonishing decrease of 43 per cent of all gun deaths since 1991," with the greatest progress being in deaths associated with rifles and shotguns. Most suicides among those 15-35 years old involve firearms "easily accessible in the home"; such deaths decreased 64 per cent between 1995 and 2005, "with no evidence of substitution with other methods."

There is little doubt that Canada's gun lobby is supported and advised by the U.S. National Rifle Association (NRA). Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice-president, wrote recently on the Canadian Sports Shooting Association website, "if all goes well in the Canadian Parliament, Dominion gun owners will be freed from 14 years of living under the crushing weight of a bureaucratic, scandal-ridden, wasteful, invasive, $2 billion, error-ridden and inarguably worthless long-gun registry."

He described the November vote against the registry as "a stunning victory for gun owners" and quotes the research director of the ultra-conservative Colorado-based Independence Institute as saying the registry's repeal "would be of tremendous global significance."

But a majority of Canadians actually believe in the registry: a new poll shows more than twice as many of us want to keep it as wish to scrap it (59 per cent versus 27 per cent), that women support the gun registry more than men (66 per cent versus 51 per cent), that more people living with gun owners support the registry than oppose it (47 per cent versus 36 per cent) and that a substantial proportion of gun owners themselves (36 per cent) support it.

The gun lobby may be louder and better financed, but even among households with guns in Canada, votes are almost evenly split.

While the gun lobby blusters that the licensing provisions of the Firearms Act provide adequate safeguards, the truth is that licensing only functions with registration as its backup. Our Supreme Court even issued a ruling to this effect.

The registry provides police with the number and type of firearms each licensed individual owns. If a gun owner is deemed dangerous to himself (or others), in the absence of the registry, how can a prohibition order be enforced?

Safe storage rules are similarly unenforceable if there's no proof of ownership for a gun in question.

Dismantling the long-gun registry would be a huge blow to the Firearms Act as a whole, undermining public safety.

So if you think gun control is expensive, try gun deaths.

(Published Tuesday May 18th, 2010 in The Daily Gleaner)

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Poll: Gun Registry Repeal Against the Will of the Majority

The publication of a new poll gauging Canadians' views on the long-gun registry proves Candace Hoeppner's so-called Private Member's Bill goes against the views of the majority of Canadians.

The poll, conducted by Leger in December 2009, shows twice as many Canadians want to keep the registry as wish to scrap it (59 versus 27 per cent); in every province but Manitoba and Saskatchewan, more people support the registry than oppose it. The poll also shows women support the gun registry more than men (66 versus 51 per cent), that more people living with gun owners support the registry than oppose it (47 versus 36 per cent) and that a substantial proportion of gun owners (36 per cent) actually support the registry themselves. The gun lobby may be louder and better financed, but even among households with guns in Canada, votes are almost evenly split.

Newspapers have lately been flooded with support for the registry from policing, health and safety organizations, women's and victims groups. But our Conservative government still intends to take the registry out, covering their ears and singing "la-la-la!!" to all the experts.

It's disheartening to watch Mr. Harper play politics with public safety: the Conservatives are the government of ALL Canadians, not just their gun lobby friends. While this coalition tries to convince us that licensing alone is an adequate safeguard, the truth is that licensing only functions with registration as its backup. The Supreme Court even issued a ruling to that effect.

If a gun owner is deemed a danger to himself or others, in the absence of the registry, how would a prohibition order be enforced?

The police MUST be able to easily discover how many and what type of firearms each licensed individual owns: that's the function of the registry. Safe storage regulations become unenforceable if we don't know who owns the particular gun in question. Dismantling the long-gun registry would be a shot to the heart of the Firearms Act, and will undermine public safety.

Gun violence is not just about urban gangs. More guns means higher rates of gun death and injury, and there are more guns in rural areas. Most police officers killed with guns are murdered with rifles and shotguns; suicides with firearms and domestic violence in rural communities seldom make the front page. Rifles and shotguns are the guns most often used in violence against women because they're the firearms most readily available.

For more information, please see a wonderful new website set up to counter the gun lobby's lies,, supported by such well-known "cults" (according to Garry Breitkreuz) as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Police Boards, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Quebec Association for Suicide Prevention, etc. etc. etc.