OTTAWA – Leader’s Ledger – This was the week in Ottawa where the fate of the Long Gun Registry was finally sealed as bill C-19 passed its final hurdle in the House of Commons. I was happy to have been present for all of the votes on C-19 and to have voted in support the abolition of the Long Gun Registry on behalf of my constituents.
I realize that the Long Gun Registry was a contentious issue for many Canadians, and many of my New Democrat colleagues in particular, but it was not a difficult issue for me. My personal position and that of my constituents has been clear for some time. For each and every federal election that I stood as a New Democrat candidate I stated, unequivocally and publicly, that I was against the Long Gun Registry and would vote to abolish it if I was elected. Voters and New Democratic Party leadership alike knew of this clear commitment each and every time.
Immediately following my election in the fall of 2008, and to ensure that I was in fact speaking for a majority of my constituents, I decided to use my newly available resources in Ottawa to send a survey directly to each household in our riding that asked voters’ opinions on the Long Gun Registry. This survey went out via Canada Post to more than 38,000 households and asked whether recipients wanted the Long Gun Registry scrapped or preserved, and allowed to them indicate if they did not know how they felt. The results? The response rate was five times the norm for this sort of survey and more than 96 percent of respondents indicated that they wanted the Long Gun Registry scrapped, with 3 percent saying they wanted it preserved, and 1 percent indicating that they were unsure.
Thus, by June 2009 I had not only made a clear commitment as a New Democrat candidate in several elections, but also had a clear and strong mandate from my constituents to vote to abolish the Long Gun Registry. Barring any irrefutable empirical evidence that the Long Gun Registry was a valuable crime fighting tool or increased public safety in our communities, my decision to vote to vote for its abolition was final. In the end, that empirical evidence never came.
We should all be happy and feel more comfortable everyday knowing that the crime rate, and violent crime rate in particular, is going down.
We should all be happy and feel more comfortable everyday knowing that the crime rate, and violent crime rate in particular, is going down. If anyone is interested in looking at the official government figures on homicide in Canada since 1980 they can be found at: Statistics Canada. There are some excellent graphs and information on this website which is broken down by type of weapon and even type of firearm.
For long guns and rifles the homicide rate was halved between 1980 and 1992, and then declined at roughly the same rate throughout the period that the Long Gun Registry was implemented. Furthermore, since the federal government stopped requiring the registration of new long guns in 2006 the rate has continue to decrease at a similar pace. Despite the passage of C-19 I fully expect this trend to continue, but should there be a dramatic and sustained increase in the per capita rate of murders and crimes in involving long guns then I will be sure to take the issue back to my constituents for their input once again.
With the end of the Long Gun Registry I will now be focusing all of my energy on other important issues as identified by my constituents over the last several elections. Protecting public and private pensions and the Old Age Security (OAS) program, preventing snooping and unnecessary intrusions on our privacy by the federal government and corporations, reducing the occurrence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), increasing the safety of First Nations youth on and off reserves, saving and creating jobs in our region, helping the broader economy grow, making life affordable for families, and pressing for federal assistance for the struggling forestry industry will all continue to be key priorities moving forward. These are of course in addition to any other issues raised by my constituents.
As we close the book on the divisive Long Gun Registry issue I want to reiterate my thanks to all of the constituents of Thunder Bay – Rainy River who took the time to share their opinions and offered their feedback on this important issue. You can be certain that your voice was heard and respected, and will continue to be as long as I serve as your representative in Ottawa.
John Rafferty MP
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