OTTAWA — Repealing Canada’s long-gun registry would set back the significant gains in suicide prevention since the registry was introduced, emergency doctors and public health organizations said Wednesday.
In an open letter to MPs, 28 medical and health organizations said most firearms deaths in Canada are suicides, and the guns most frequently used are rifles and shotguns. They argued gun-related deaths and suicides in particular have diminished since the advent of the long-gun registry in 1995.
“The vast majority of firearm deaths in Canada are not gang-related but occur when an ordinary citizen becomes suicidal or violent, often under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or during a personal crisis such as marital breakdown or job loss,” their letter says.
“While it is true that there are more guns in rural areas, and therefore more opposition to gun control, it is equally true that there are higher rates of gun deaths in rural communities and western provinces.”
A private member’s bill to scrap the registry, put forward by Tory Candice Hoeppner, is before the House of Commons.
Dr. Alan Drummond of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians said, “Suicide is not a premeditated act usually; it’s usually impulsive, somebody feels overwhelmed, the gun is available, they pull the trigger.”
For that reason, emergency doctors want the registry to remain intact.
He said it is particularly helpful when police or a family member bring someone to an emergency department who is depressed or suicidal. Knowing if there is a gun in the home can make a huge difference, as physicians can then recommend police temporarily remove the firearm.
Drummond, a rural doctor who owns registered guns himself, said, “This, for us, is not really an issue of crime control but rather an issue of public health and safety.”