Here we go again

September 18, 2006

Another piece on “Gun Control” and why it doesn’t work.

Let’s go through it, shall we?

I have to admit, I’ve been wrong about the gun registry in the past. I always thought that it should be scrapped, for the simple reason that criminals don’t obey the law.

Yep, they don’t. I think this is why we call them “criminals”

It turns out, however, that the registry is useless for another reason. Some criminals do obey the law, dutifully registering their guns before using them to slaughter people.

Well, I think this is called the “human factor” where human people do stupid things. Among other things that have grave consequences:

  • Drinking & Driving
  • Smoking Pot and then driving
  • Walking across a red light
  • Cutting people off in their cars
  • Speeding

And many more.

On Wednesday, at Montreal’s Dawson College, Kimveer Gill used three apparently legally registered firearms to kill (as of this writing) one person, and injure and traumatize many others.

He could have also plowed his car in a group of Students. A weapon, btw, that has always been registered too.

In one sense, at least, he was law-abiding. But given what he was able and willing to do with his registered weapons, how can it be argued that the registry is anything but a misuse of funds, time and energy?

Why don’t we stop the registration of cars as well? Clearly all these accidents and killing done with cars on a daily basis can’t be stopped by not only registering them, but by also licensing the drivers. So clearly we don’t need these wastes of money any longer either.

Even had Gill’s weapons not been registered, what difference would that make? It isn’t paperwork that will prevent the kind of violent crime Gill committed. That kind of crime can probably never be completely prevented.

True, the paperwork doesn’t prevent these things from happening, it only tries to weed out the ones we can find before. You know, like when you need a Visa to enter a country, or get fingerprinted and photographed like a criminal upon entering a country in case you are a criminal.

All of these tasks, drivers licenses included, are meant to limit the scope of people who can do damage, none of these works flawlessly. Should we get rid of these as well?

Mandatory sentencing, tougher bail and parole legislation, while laudatory initiatives in terms of other crimes, would not have stopped Gill.

Right, so what does that tell you about him as a human being?

He had no police record. Hiring more police officers, while also a good idea, would most likely not have stopped him.

So are you saying there is no stopping this kind of thing from happening?

And even sounding the alarm at the sight of his nihilistic web profile might not have helped.

Why not? We use profiling to track down terrorists, so it may / should have raised some alarms. If not, then maybe we aren’t save from Terrorists either.

Were we to scrutinize every young male who posts similar ramblings (an impossibility), there would be few police left for anything else. Not to mention the crucial matter of freedom of expression, be that “expression” disturbing or not. All of this is tragic, but no less true for that.


The registry of long guns, and more talk of gun control in general, came about, in part, as a reaction to the 1989 Montreal massacre.

But, if anything, one could argue that the 1989 tragedy and Wednesday’s events, would more likely have been stopped earlier on, if not prevented, by supporting the right to bear arms.

Slippery slope.

Had all, or many, students and faculty at L’École Polytechnique, or Dawson College, been armed, Marc Lepine and Kimveer Gill would have been taken out quickly.

That’s wishful thinking. It is ONE thing to shoot a gun at a shooting range and a totally different one to aim it at a human being. There is a reason why soldiers go through training to learn how to shoot at a human being. Someone who has not gone through such a training and suddenly has bullets flying is very unlikely to be able to use his or her weapon effectively. If anything the death toll may have been higher, because now suddenly instead of one, clearly to identify gunman you have a dozen or more people blindly firing bullets. Now imagine the cops approaching that scene, who are they going to single out in the chaos?

I’m not suggesting Canada should be like Tombstone, Arizona. I’m arguing that it is fatuous to insist these rampage killings would be stopped by stricter gun laws.

What these gun laws are trying to do is the same thing as getting a drivers license does: It tries to get rid of the most obvious people who are going to abuse the privilege. It is no guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong, just look in your daily newspaper and have a look at the traffic accidents that are reported every day.

If we follow your logic any kind of registration is useless, so we should get rid of drivers licenses, car registrations and passports as well as border controls, because, by the extend of your logic, none of these does any good.

We should, after incidents such as this, ask questions. We should look for solutions, or at least improvements.

The Truth? This will happen again, regardless of WHAT you are doing. Because there will be human beings out there who have the will to do this and do not care if they walk away at the end or not. And no, there is no “Magic Bullet” that can identify these people upfront. If things like this are blown open before it happens it is most likely pure luck.

But the inevitable political manipulations that take place in the aftermath of the Lepines and the Gills are dismaying.

The reflexive reaction on both sides — the latte-drinking, pro-gun control urbanites, vs. what the latter view as assorted loners, rubes and crazies, is not productive.

What you forget is that it is the Urbanites who would suddenly be surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of guns. And even you cannot deny the more guns are out there the higher the chance that something goes wrong. It’s basic statistics. The more car are on the roads, the more accidents happen. Simple as that.

But as a latte-drinking urbanite, who has no interest in owning a gun of any kind, I see no societal benefit to making rubes, crazies, or anyone else, register theirs.

Let me ask this the other way around: What is the damage (besides financial)? Other countries register guns as well. As far as I understand it, getting a license is pretty simple, and people spend a lot of money on other things, so the cost for the registration won’t stop anyone from having guns.

Gun Registry will not prevent events like last week, but I doubt even you would advocate to do away with border controls, passports and drivers licenses, just because neither of them is 100% effective.



  1. Get serious. Registration has only one useful purpose. Eventual confiscation. (England Ausrtaila)That,s why is is so distrusted. Very few people have any problem with the P.A.L. system. Liscence the person not the object. That’s where the danger is.

  2. Registration also has the useful purpose of being able to TRACE a weapon…. AFTER the fact.

    Pretty much like EVERY registration for ANY reason.

    Car Registration? Doesn’t prevent anything.
    Bike Registration? Hey, they may be able to give it back to you when they find it after it was stolen, it won’t prevent the stealing itself.

    etc. etc. etc.

    The Hallmark of a SUCCESSFUL society is that it does not requires it participants to carry around weapons in order to defend themselves.

    How this does not register with the majority of people who oppose the gun registry is rather sad.

  3. I don’t see that registering a gun has the same benefits of registering a car. The visual component of the automobile registry (the license plate) is what provides value to the police as a means of identification when a car is used in a crime, when the driver flees the scene of an accident, or simply to provide incentive for the driver to stop for the police and accept the consequence of speeding or other driving offences.

    Unfortunately no such analogous benefits can be derived from a firearm registry. For this reason I don’t support such a registry – any potential benefits can more easily be achieved by licensing the owner.

  4. Denis,

    what if you find a gun at the scene of a crime? If it is registered (with Serial Number etc.) you can trace it back to the owner.

    If it is NOT registered all you have is a gone, but (bar some finger prints) probably no way to tracing it.

    There is a benefit in a gun registry if done right. But it is not in order to prevent things like last weeks Montreal shooting, these will always happen.

  5. In all honesty, I would like to see some statistical justification to this argument. For example, in the last 5 years how many criminal investigations would have benefited (or have benefited) from such a registry – keeping in mind this would only be crimes involving long guns as hand guns are not a part of this current debate.

    That said, to date, the public debate around long gun registration as a police tool has centred around the ability for police to know if a resident has a firearm before approaching the house (specifically domestic disturbance cases are often mentioned). This is the type of case where I would suggest it is enough to know that the resident is licenced to own a firearm which would allow the police to act with due care while entering the situation.

  6. I see the advantage in the registry as a forensic tool, much like any other registry in the “war on terror”.

    I agree that to know about the potential of knowing if there may be a gun a registered user may be more useful, at the end these systems only complement the police efforts, not replace them.

  7. There may be a small advantage, but I think there must be some sort of cost/benefit ratio that must be used in determining whether a system is worth implementing and/or maintaining. Unfortunately I don’t think this registry was built for anything other than political reasons so there was little analysis of the actual problem that was trying to be solved.

    For me to be convinced that there is a real need for a long gun registry I would want to know 1) what problems are a registry going to address, 2) how widespread are these problems, 3) how exactly will a registry address these problems, and 4) is a registry the most effective and efficient way to address these problems.

    Unfortunately no one has shown that there is a real, widespread problem that is best addressed by a long gun registry.

  8. I agree to an extend. Welcome to the world of politics where it is about opportunity, not so much about reality. The “War on Terror” has similar things going on that may or may not help AFTER the fact, but yet, there are still billions spend on it.

  9. Probably why I usually have this little, nagging desire to totally withdraw from all things political 🙂

    Thanks for the conversation.

  10. Snowrunner
    The Police do not rely on the registry to prove or disprove that a firearm may be encountered at a call. To do so could be suicide. They treat ALL calls as potential “GUN CALLS”. The usage numbers for the Registry are not accurate either. This is becauce every time your name is entered into a Police computer the Registry is hit. Everything from Jaywalking to DUI. Also, no one is advocating an armed society with everyone packing. That is a grave responsibility. It is enough that the athorities know that an individual possesses guns. This is done by the PAL system. If you control the individual the firearms cannot do harm on their own. Tracking of firearms has been done for years by other means(sales records etc)so we don’t need registration for that. The Long Gun Registry was set up for one purpose. Eventual confiscation of all guns. Keep the liscence system. Make it as foolproof as possible. Get rid of the rest.

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