Trigger Warning for descriptions of gun related violence
Today I saw an article in Persephone Magazine on the issue of the long gun registry, which, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is described in the article:
To legally obtain a long gun in Canada, the potential owner must apply for a permit, and the gun itself must be registered. Police services across the country have access to this registry, so that guns involved in crimes can be traced, and also so police officers can check if, when responding to a call at a residence, they expect that the owner has a gun, and take appropriate precautions. Permits must be renewed every five years, currently. Handguns have been regulated since the 1930s, and are not covered by this legislation.
The article was poignant and informative for me to read. I had no idea it was founded as a response to the tragedy of the Montreal Massacre, for instance. I also have looked at the gun issue from a feminist angle, and also from the perspective of a gun owner, a hunter, a person with a disability, the daughter of a veteran, and as someone who’s lived in two different states, one with very strict gun laws, and one with the most lax. The conclusion I have reached is simple: This gun registry is necessary. Bob Herbert put it best, “We could become much more sane, much healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem, and that the twisted way so many men feel about women, combined with the absurdly easy availability of guns, is a toxic mix of the most tragic proportions.”
I have been using guns at shooting ranges with my father since I was seven, I’ve used rifles, assault rifles, and handguns of all types, and I do sport shooting on the odd weekend when I fancy it. As a queer woman, I feel that gun ownership shouldn’t be unnecessarily restricted, because many queer women have been victims of violence in their own home, and I want to protect myself and my significant other in case of an emergency. As a disabled woman, I find language which prohibits people who are “mentally ill, deficient or disabled” from owning a gun problematic and disablist, especially considering that we are far more likely to be victims in a violent crime rather than perpetrators. But I do not find the long gun registry to be an invasion of my rights as a (former) gun owner, or unnecessary.
I believe that guns are instruments which are highly dangerous and are meant to be treated with respect and fear, not to be used as toys or props in a cantankerous display of strength and machismo, which I saw them used as far too often in Montana (and in Hawaii, believe it or not) I’m a responsible gun owner who always cleaned and stored my weapons properly, and followed the basic safety procedures to the T. It was a good talking-to with my father in it for me if I didn’t. I thought, before I moved to Montana, that all gun owners were as responsible as my father and I were. I was wrong.
While I lived in Montana, I had a few vivid incidents of irresponsible gun ownership haunt me, which convinced me that stronger regulation was needed when it came to firearms, even in Big Sky Country. The first was the murder of my uncle. He was killed by someone who, in spite of numerous warrants for their arrest and a criminal history as long as the seam on my stockings, was able to get their hands on a powerful .45 and use it to kill my uncle. After that incident, I picked up some bear spray and went into hiding for a couple of weeks to avoid the chance that the murderer would find me next and try to kill me.
The other times were less horrible and heart-breaking, but they still left a great impression on my psyche and influenced my opinion on the registry. A scary one was going to the house I was sharing with a few other people after a long day, collapsing on the couch and wanting nothing more than a cold soda, when I felt something hard and lumpy under the sofa cushions. I felt around and ended up pulling out, I shit you not, a fully loaded assault rifle, cocked and ready to go. I ran out of the room in horror, and then later asked one of my housemates what the hell it was doing in there. It turned out he’d borrowed it, and gave a non-committal shrug at me telling him that it needed to go. I was twice as angry because in this particular house, two little children came over a lot, and could have easily accessed the gun. Unsupervised little children and unsupervised guns never mix. If you don’t agree with that statement, then there’s something seriously wrong with you.
With these incidents, I realized that owning a gun may be a right you can choose to exercise, but it is a right that comes with some strings attached- Knowing how to responsibly handle a firearm, how to store it, and how to ensure, overall, that your safety and the safety of others are not threatened by irresponsible and inappropriate gun use.
I see the long gun registry as a continuation of that. Guns are dangerous, and they need to be treated with the respect and proper care they deserve. We register cars in this country, I don’t see why a gun should be any different. Like a car, a gun is a machine which can be lethal in the wrong hands. The statistics on preventing gun related violence speak for themselves as well, and I don’t find the argument of “But look at knife crime in Winnipeg!” to be a compelling reason to relax gun control. Just because people are apt to using knives improperly means that I should allow them to also gain a better chance of accessing something which is lot only lethal, but long range as well?
Keep the long gun registry, Canada. Take my word for it. And it will take considerably more money to scrap it at this point than keep it, which eliminates your “it’s budget friendly” rhetoric. Take my word as a responsible and proud gun owner and hunter, I’m behind the registry 100%, as should any gun owner who values those lower crime rates and the lives saved more than convenience in purchasing a gun.