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Friday, 4 November 2011

Gun Control, Fluoridation and the Public's Health

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With a blog title like this, no doubt the hits to this site will be up.   The posting on fluoridation from November 1 resulted in 3 times more page views than any previous posting.   Two options, first is that the posting was widely circulated within the dental public health community.  More likely, that search engines are constantly roving the web for triggering terms – and fluoridation invokes a passionate response in those that are not supportive. It is great to know that such fervency persists in our society. 
The key issue for the day is the Harper government’s unwavering obsession to kill the long gun registry in Canada.   I expect another passionate response shall ensue. I will concede that I actually had no preset opinion and tried to ask the questions that I would like answered to help me decide what to think.  Follow through the logic and see if you concur with the opinion. 
First question – what has happened to homicide rates in Canada since the introduction (and prior) of gun registry? Homicide rates have been consistently declining in Canada for nearly 4 decades.   No there was not a large step reduction post registry implementation Globe and mail report on Stats Can release on homicide rates  

Second question – what happened to homicide rates in our neighbours to the south over the same time period?  Homicide rates peaked in the US in 1980s and have been steadily decreasing at a rate that is proportionately comparable if not better than reductions in Canada. 
Third question:  what proportion of homicides are caused by long guns? Firearms only contribute to roughly 1/3rd of Canadian homicides Violent crime in Canada - statistics Canada .   Of all firearms homicides, long guns are implicated in 23%, this is down from 36% prior to the 1991 commencement of more rigorous gun control.   (the registry was introduced in 1996).
Fourth question:  What is the rate of homicide per long gun?  There were some 7.8 Million registered firearms, of which about 90% are long guns.   Long guns were responsible for about 40 homicides in 2010, or a rate of 5.5 homicides per Million long guns.  Any attempt to measure the rate of registered long gun, or where all legal aspects were complied with would take this low rate even lower.   
Fifth question:  How much money will be saved?   There’s a question for the politicians to play with, but looking at their claims the registry cost $2 Billion. Unlikely, and that number is more likely inclusive of a broad range of interventions some of which related to gun control, and some of which will continue irrespective of proposed changes.  The current annual cost the government claims is supposedly $22M, however with the elimination, there will be no job losses, so please tell me how any money will be saved?   The RCMP report the savings will more likely be in the order of $1-4 Million per year and I will concede I’m more likely to believe their estimate.
Sixth question:  What actually will be lost and what stays under the legislation?  While the long gun registry is being executed, owners still require a license and completion of the training and licensing process. Rules for securing firearms will not change.  Immediate accessibility to firearms will not necessarily be increased if people comply with existing legislation. Those 10% of guns considered restricted or prohibited which are inclusive of handguns and automated guns still require certification and will be registered and there will continue to be a gun registry infrastructure to be maintained.   7.1 Million bits of information on the current location and ownership of long guns will be lost.  
Perhaps the Harper obsession may be justified. Nonetheless, the failure to come clean on; What the savings actually are?  What is being retained and lost? and What the risks are? contribute to the distrust surrounding the change.   It is being positioned more as a political coup and populist action designed to appeal to conservative roots (and as with the ship building contracts, likely to penalize Quebec for its lack of political support) than as a potentially rationale and logical action based on facts.   Not surprising from a government that tends to ignore facts and science in their decision processes already.
At the end of the day, we should recall that the presence of a firearm in a household substantially increases the risk for a suicide (and probably a homicide) within that household.  The long gun registry debate has detracted from discussing the risks of long gun ownership, something that professionals may wish to focus attention on. It is time to move on, since at this point this government isn’t likely to listen to passionate or rationale arguments anyway. 

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