Now that the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act, or Bill C-19, is before the House of Commons and all but certain to pass into law, should the shooting sports community take aim at also getting rid of non-restricted gun licences for individuals? The rumblings are out there, with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation making the most noise. It’s not a campaign I would encourage.

When people who don’t hunt or own firearms ask me why I support the end of the long-gun registry, one of the key reasons I cite is that it’s redundant and, as such, a huge waste of taxpayer coin that could otherwise go toward actually combating crime. Redundant how so? Simply, in order to possess a firearm, you must already hold a valid firearms licence. To then insist that a licensed individual must additionally register each and every shotgun and rifle he or she owns is nonsensical.

I say nonsensical because one of the chief arguments in support of the $2-billion registry is that police officers routinely consult it before responding to 911 calls at private residences. In short, the cops want to know if there are guns on the premises before they go through the door. Two things here. One, all the police need to know is if there is a licensed individual on the premises; if yes, chances are the person owns at least one firearm. Duh. Secondly, as a detective friend once told me, police should attend any call thinking there may be firearms present—whether or not the listed residents are licensed gun owners. Indeed, the vast majority of bad guys—gang members and the like—are not licensed gun owners (let alone adherents to the doomed registry).

How then the registry was supposed to combat gun crime is beyond me. Of course, registry proponents point to statistics showing that homicides committed with the use of long guns have dropped some 52 per cent since the registry became law in 1995. (The Toronto Star has compiled an inventory of stats sure to be brought forward by the opposition during debate on Bill C-19.) What’s missing here, though, is any corollary evidence linking the registry to the decline. But I digress.

My point here is that, yes, let’s get rid of the registry. But to those in the who are now also calling for an end to the licensing of individuals, please, leave it alone. All that hunters and rural folk have ever asked for is to get rid of the pernicious registry. Few question the need for the proper safety training and attendant licensing of individuals who wish to use or possess firearms—we’ve had that mandated by federal statute since 1991. It’s just common sense, after all.

The way I see it, to now push for the dismantling of individual licensing is only sure to garner immense public backlash. No, for those of us who use firearms to shoot targets, hunt or protect farmland from vermin, our job now is to demonstrate what we have known all along: that the responsible use of firearms is no threat to the public.

Indeed, Canada’s gun control regime remains robust, even without the registry. Consider the highlights of Bill C-19, as listed on the Public Safety Canada website:

  • Repeal the requirement to register non-restricted firearms (long-guns);
  • Provide for the destruction of all records pertaining to the registration of long-guns currently contained in the Canadian Firearms Registry and under the control of the chief firearms officers; and
  • Maintain controls over restricted and prohibited firearms.
  • Under the proposed reforms, firearms owners will still require a valid firearm licence to purchase or possess firearms and to purchase ammunition. They will also be required to undergo police background checks, pass a firearms safety training course and comply with firearms safe storage and transportation requirements.
  • In addition, individuals will continue to be required to register prohibited and restricted firearms, such as handguns.

Strict? Viewed through the lens of the American firearms experience, no doubt. But for me, to be able to continue to freely tote my shotgun afield, it’s a relatively small—and easy—price to pay. Besides, would you like to share the forest with someone who’s never been properly trained in the safe use of a firearm? I know I wouldn’t.