]We'd like to believe that the federal government's gun control program has made a difference in battling violent crime in Canada since it was implemented a decade ago. We really would.
We're great believers in law and order, and want to see our streets made safer for all citizens. The trouble is, despite the fact the government has spent more than $1 billion on the firearms registry to date, we're not seeing any appreciable decline in gun crime.
In fact, recently released figures from Statistics Canada show that in 2003 there were 161 homicides involving guns nationwide -- down just four from the 165 recorded in 1999. And the number of homicides involving handguns went up from 89 cases in 1999 to 109 in 2003.
The problem, as we have argued in the past, is that the gun registry targets the wrong people and the wrong firearms. Drug dealers, bank robbers and other violent criminals seldom choose hunting rifles as their weapons of choice. Nor do they go to the outdoor store to purchase their guns and ammunition and fill out forms.
No, they buy their guns and their bullets on the street, from other criminals who have stolen them or spirited them across our porous border with the U.S.
That's why the gun registry has been such a spectacular failure.
As Deputy Conservative Leader Peter MacKay points out in a special feature prepared today by the Sun's Maria McClintock: "The Hells Angels don't line up at a kiosk and register their shotguns."
No one has ever connected the gun registry to public safety, argues MacKay.
"If you put the equivalent money or resources into front-line policing, public awareness and general policing resources that, to me, would be a far more effective means of addressing firearms-related violence," he says.
We have had misgivings about the gun registry ever since it was launched by then-justice minister Allan Rock in 1995.
At the time, Rock estimated the gun registry would cost $85 million to implement and $2 million a year to administer, and there would be a cost-recovery program to defray expenses incurred by the registry.
What a joke that projection turned out to be. Costs have ballooned to more than $1 billion, including a staggering $200 million-plus in 2000-01 alone, and the revenue the program has generated through fees and charges totalled a little more than $87 million between 1995 and 2004.
Meanwhile, after 10 years of tossing money out the window, the government is finally showing signs of catching on to what the real problem is in the battle against gun crime.
Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan tells McClintock that dealing with the cross-border trade of illegal guns has now become a major priority for her government. It's about time.
Too bad, though, that she's not showing the same zeal for toughening up penalties against violent crime, saying she's skeptical that approach will work.
To which we say it's worth a try, minister, because the current revolving-door concept that spits criminals back on to the street as quickly as they're sentenced isn't working right now either.