After more than a year of ignoring questions about the savings associated with the cancellation of the gun-registry, Stephen Harper’s government has to own up and admit taxpayers won’t be better off now that the system has been shut down.
The Conservative government originally estimated cost-savings that could be measured in thousands of millions. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told a Commons committee that the savings would be “north of $1 billion.”
Taxpayers would no doubt like to know that any public safety system that’s dismantled will save us money and not compromise our personal security. The Conservatives promised both: a cost-savings and no effect on public safety if the registry was shut down.
Both claims now appear quite dubious.
An access to information request filed by the Coalition for Gun Control turned up government paperwork that shows we can expect an estimated savings of about $2 million a year.
The coalition also points out that the savings – about a dime per taxpayer – will be gobbled up by a number of factors, including more RCMP screening of new and renewing gun owners and more time spent on collaboration between police forces because there’s no more registry to consult. In addition, stolen guns can’t be traced back to their owners if there’s no registry, so officers will have to spend more time on some criminal investigations.
While the original cost of launching the long-gun registry was way over budget, once those set-up expenses were paid, the day-to-day operations weren’t a big bite out of the federal budget. Gun owners were only required to register a gun once, unlike a car that needs an annual renewal, so the volume of work to keep the registry up to date tailed off.
An RCMP report dated February 2010 noted that the cost of administering the long-gun registry was going down year over year.
All of the above, of course, only deals with dollars, not lives.
Quebec’s National Institute of Public Health thinks there is a clear connection between strict gun laws and suicides across Canada. A person who uses a gun in an attempt to end their life rarely gets a second chance, so access to a gun simply means more people die needlessly each year.
In short, the institute determined that licensing all gun owners resulted in 250 fewer suicides annually in Canada. And for anyone who wants to put a price on life and death, the decrease in gun deaths and injuries since 1995 may have saved us $1.4 billion a year.
So why would a government want to exaggerate the cost-savings related to the cancellation of a federal program? Could ideology or pandering on the campaign trail trump what’s actually best for Canadians?
Toews and Harper need to address the information obtained by the Coalition for Gun Control and admit the savings has been paltry.
They also need to answer a simple question: Why would a tax-fighting, tough-on-crime party deny Canadians a gun registry if it saves money and saves lives?