For it before he was against it, Easter edition

Fun facts. From 1892 to 2005, Canada had a solicitor general. From Oct. 2002 to Dec. 2003, Liberal Wayne Easter, as noted here, held that title. From April 2003 to Dec. 2003, that position put Easter in charge of the federal firearm registry. And on Wednesday night, Easter voted to have long guns removed from that registry.

In July 2003, six gun owners showed up at Easter’s constituency office, reported that they had not registered their weapons and invited him to take action. He declined. “I don’t direct police operations,” he told Canwest at the time, “that’s up to the police to decide. And as I’ve said a number of times, the police know the difference between somebody trying to make a point politically versus concerns for public safety.”

Three months later though, with the release of statistics showing a drop in gun-related deaths, Easter was sought out for comment and seemed generally supportive of the registry’s general purpose. Canadian Press dispatch after the jump. Relevant portion in bold.

Gun-death rate drops to all-time low; anti-gun groups hail regulations
Canadian Press Newswire
Wed Oct 1 2003
Section: National General News

OTTAWA (CP) _ The rate of gun deaths in Canada fell to an all-time low last year, providing fresh ammunition for gun-control advocates and drawing envy from south of the border.

The 26 per cent of homicides committed with a firearm was the lowest proportion since statistics were first collected in 1961, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday.

Stabbing was the most common method of killing, accounting for 31 per cent of homicides. Beatings resulted in 21 per cent of deaths, while strangulation or suffocation came in at 11 per cent.

The overall homicide rate actually increased slightly, but it was pushed up by the 15 deaths of missing women that occurred in previous years in Port Coquitlam, B.C., that were reported by police in 2002.

The lower gun-death rate was hailed by anti-gun groups in Canada and the U.S.

They pointed to years of firearms regulation, but stopped short of crediting the federal gun registry which requires all gun owners to register their weapons.

“The numbers look encouraging,” said Wendy Cukier of the Coalition for Gun Control in Toronto.

“It’s still a bit soon to attribute it to the most recent gun-control law but certainly the trend in Canada of strengthening controls over firearms does appear to be having an effect.”

She said handguns being smuggled into Canada from the U.S. is the biggest problem.

The Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said many Americans will envy the Canadian numbers.

“We lose nearly 30,000 Americans every year,” said spokesman Blaine Rummel. “That is astronomically higher than Canada’s actual gun death rate. The reason why is because Canada has always taken a very responsible approach to regulating firearms ownership.”

Canadian police reported 582 homicides last year, up 29 from the previous year.

The national homicide rate was 1.85 homicides for every 100,000 people, compared with 1.78 in 2001.

Solicitor General Wayne Easter welcomed the numbers, but he also stopped short of crediting the gun registry.

“The more important aspect of the firearms registry at the moment is the greater ability, with more registered guns, it gives the national weapons enforcement-support teams a greater ability to find illegal guns and stolen and missing guns,” he said.

“That’s the success story of the firearms registry system so far.”

Alberta’s justice minister disagreed.

“The gun registry has been an absolute waste of time and resources and has shown no effectiveness,” David Hancock said from a meeting in La Malbaie, Que.

“The reality is … we had very strong gun laws in this country for a very long period of time and the guns involved in most of those incidents were already restricted or prohibited weapons.” Of the 149 gun killings last year, handguns accounted for two-thirds, up from about one-half during the 1990s and one-third prior to 1990.

B.C. saw the biggest jump in homicides, to 126 from 84 in 2001.

With regard to cities, Winnipeg, with 23 homicides, and Saskatoon, with eight, each had a rate of 3.41 per 100,000 residents, the highest among metropolitan areas.

Statistics Canada also found that:

_ For a second consecutive year, gang-related homicides dropped substantially.

_ As usual, most homicides were committed by someone known to the victim.

_ Almost half of the 182 victims killed by a family member were killed by their spouse.

_ Forty-four per cent of female victims and eight per cent of male victims were killed by someone with whom they had a relationship.

_ Men are more likely to be killed by a stranger than women.

_ Almost two-thirds of the 523 people accused of committing homicide in 2002 had a criminal record.

_ Consistent with previous years, men accounted for nine in 10 accused, and about two-thirds of all victims.

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