BY LES MACPHERSON, THE STARPHOENIX, SEPTEMBER 21, 2010
There is no point at this late stage rehashing the debate over the long-gun registry. Except for a few dithering New Democrats, the positions are clearly defined. We have heard from the politicians. We have heard from farmers and duck hunters and from law enforcement authorities. We have heard from the Starbucks crowd and the gopher derby crowd. They all are saying pretty much exactly what they said 15 years ago when the registry was created.
The only group we have not heard from, oddly enough, is the one group the registry is meant to control, namely criminals. The whole idea was to reduce violent crime, although the registry probably has done more to reduce hunting. Since it came into effect, the sale of hunting licences in Saskatchewan, for example, has dropped by about 25 per cent, while violent crime has declined not at all. If hunters were a species, they would qualify as endangered. Meanwhile, the criminal species is flourishing.
This might explain why we’ve heard no complaints from the criminal element about the long-gun registry. It doesn’t seem to bother them. Or if it does bother them, they’re not making a big deal of it. We can’t be sure what they think because no one has asked.
For the criminal perspective on the registry, I tracked down Larry Lowlife, a serial violent offender who is between convictions and briefly out of jail. Here is the transcript of our interview:
SP: Before we talk about the long-gun registry, can you establish your credentials as a violent career criminal?
LL: Sure. (Produces a sawed-off shotgun from under his coat.) Stick ’em up
SP: (Nervous laugh) I’m convinced. Do you mind if I ask if your firearm is registered?
LL: Not to me, but it probably was registered by the previous owner. I stole it during a residential break-in.
SP: You stole it? Was the gun not secured under lock and key, as required by law?
LL: Sure, it was in a locked cabinet. The house was locked, too. Anything worth stealing is locked up. That’s one of the first things we learn in crime school.
SP: I notice you have sawed off the barrel. Did you know that’s illegal?
LL: That’s why it was under my coat.
SP: Have you been following the national debate over the long-gun registry?
LL: Not really. It has nothing to do with me.
SP: But you could be convicted for having an unregistered firearm.
LL: Not if I agree to plead out on the armed robberies.
SP: What armed robberies?
LL: The ones where I use this gun.
SP: Are you saying the registry does not deter crime?
LL: I think I answered that earlier when I said, ‘Stick ’em up.’
SP: Were you aware that the registry has cost taxpayers more than $2 billion?
LL: Two billion dollars? And they call me a criminal?
SP: So you think that’s too expensive?
LL: Not at all. I wish it cost more.
LL: Well, we criminals don’t pay taxes anyway, so the registry costs me, personally, nothing. I’m just glad that $2 billion isn’t available to hire more cops to arrest guys like me.
SP: But a lot of police support the registry. They supposedly access it thousands of times every day.
LL: Good for them. When they come to arrest me, they’ll check the registry and think I’m unarmed.
SP: Has the registry made it more difficult to obtain a gun for criminal purposes?
LL: Finding an illegal gun is easy. The tricky part is getting rid of it later.
SP: What message do you have for MPs who will vote this week to save or dismantle the long-gun registry?
LL: I’d tell them to put up their hands and give me their wallets and jewelry.
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