In Canada, 85% of female homicide victims are murdered by their partners and in Ontario, possession or access to firearms is the fifth leading risk factor for femicide. These reasons are just two among many that led Wendy Cukier to work for stronger gun control in Canada.
For those of you who do not know who Wendy Cukier is, you must not be from Canada. Ms. Cukier, in addition to being a Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, is a co-founder and the current President of the Coalition for Gun Control(CGC).
The Coalition for Gun Control is an alliance of more than 300 major policing, public safety and violence prevention organizations including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Canadian Public Health Association, and YWCA of Canada. It is also a founding member of IANSA.
The Coalition was founded in the wake of the Montreal Massacre. In 1989, a twenty-five year old named Marc Lépine entered a classroom at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, armed with a legally obtained semi-automatic rifle.
Lépine moved all of the women to one side of the classroom and shot them, declaring that he hated women and that he was ‘fighting feminism’. He then roamed the corridors, entered another classroom and the cafeteria, specifically targeted women, and shot them. In total, fourteen women were killed and ten were injured.
The mission of the Coalition is to reduce gun violence, injury, and crime. As the organization’s President, Cukier has for years been one of Canada’s leading voices on the necessity of gun control. Working together with the police, health care agencies, women’s groups, and victims, CGC and Cukier have helped to lead the efforts to defend Canada’s Firearms Act.
When Ms. Cukier took time to sit down with me last week for an interview, one question I posed relates to the interrelatedness of licensing and the registry. I explained that many opponents of the registry claim it to be unnecessary, and asked how she would explain that the two are indeed interconnected.
In response, Ms. Cukier asserted that as Canada’s Supreme Court concluded in their 2000 opinion regarding the Act’s constitutionality, it would be impossible to ensure that licensed individuals do not give their guns to others not holding a license without the registry. The registration of firearms helps to enforce the licensing provisions of the Act.
To explain this, Ms. Cukier provided the example that if an individual has a license and purchases firearms without a registration requirement, there is no way to hold them accountable for those firearms or to prevent them from lending or giving them to an unlicensed person. In other words, registration results in accountability.
In addition, if a prohibition order is placed on someone and their firearms license is taken away, without the registry, the police have no way to know what firearms they should be seizing.
Lastly, Ms. Cukier explained that if guns are stolen after being improperly stored, owners are unlikely to report the theft as required by law. If guns are registered, in effect attaching the name of the gun owners to the firearm, owners are more likely to behave responsibly. Registration is an essential component in preventing the diversion of legal guns to illegal markets.
Clearly, the licensing and registry provisions included in the Firearms Act are interrelated, and licensing on its own cannot do what licensing and the registry can together. As Canada’s Supreme Court pointed out in their 2000 opinion on the constitutionality of the Act, the registry helps police officers to take preventative measures, and also aides in holding people who have misused firearms or sold them illegally responsible for their actions.
In closing, I would like to point out that since December 1st, 1998 (when the Firearms Act was first implemented) the notification line, which allows concerned spouses or individuals to report their objections about the acquisition of a firearm by someone they know, has received over 22,000 calls.
Additionally, and in part due to Canada’s Firearms Act, there has been a 67% decrease of female homicides by firearms; while the rate of female homicideswithout firearms has only decreased by 10%. Canada’s gun control law has been identified as a best practice globally in the reduction of armed violence against women.
Posted By Elizabeth Mandelman (Canada)
Posted May 12th, 2014