Canadian women are among those who have the most to lose if the long gun registry is scrapped, say leaders of women’s sheltering organizations from across the country. Representatives from the provincial and territorial associations of women’s shelters, which together represent over 350 shelters from coast to coast, are collectively hoping to bring attention to the role that long guns play in cases of violence against women; a topic that they feel has been sorely missing from current discussions surrounding the potential abolition of the registry.
“We are dismayed by the lack of coverage that this side of the debate is getting,” says Barbara McInerney, director of Kaushee’s Place, Yukon Women’s Transition Home “and surprised given the fact that the Montreal Massacre, in which 14 women were murdered by a gunman wielding a semi-automatic Ruger Mini 15, one of the many weapons which would go untracked if the registry were scrapped, was a major spur to the passing of Firearms Act in 1995.”
There is overwhelming evidence to show that firearms, and in particular long guns, pose a significant threat to women in domestic violence situations, and that deregulation would only exacerbate this problem. The Ontario Office of the Chief Coroner lists access to firearms as the fifth highest risk factor that predicts whether a woman will die in domestic violence situations. Contrary to popular belief, the firearms being used in these situations are more often than not long guns, not handguns. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics states that 72% of gun-related spousal homicides are committed with a shotgun or rifle. The registry alerts police when there are guns involved in domestic violence cases, allowing these weapons to be removed before the situation escalates, say the reps. Screening processes also help get guns away from high risk individuals who would otherwise have unregulated access to them. Take this away, they continue, and more tragedies will occur.
This argument is supported by a 2009 Statistics Canada Report on Family Violence that showed that gun-related spousal homicide has decreased considerably since the implementation of the Firearms Act in 1995, from 27 cases in 1996 to 9 in 2007. The Alberta Center for Injury Control & Research summed up the evidence when they stated that “women in situations of domestic violence are at particular risk of injury or death by long guns in the hands of spouses. Saving women from death at the hands of their intimate partner is a key benefit of the long gun registry.”
In many cases, the mere presence of a firearm in the home is enough to instill fear and intimidate. A study done in eastern Canada on family violence in rural settings found that two thirds of the female respondents indicated that there were firearms in their homes, and said that knowing about the firearms made them more fearful for their safety and well-being. Women were more likely to express concern for their safety when the firearms weren’t registered or safely stored.
Domestic violence related homicides are disproportionately higher in these rural and western communities, where long gun ownership is most prevalent. These are notably the very communities where opposition to gun control and registration is highest. MP’s who would vote to abolish the registry say they are representing their constituents, but they are only representing those who are loudest. They don’t represent those who are silenced out of fear of retribution or out of shame. These women are not safe to speak publically and it is up to the rest of us to speak for them.
Yukon Status of Women Council
 Ontario Office of the Chief Coroner (2002), The Toronto Star, 1 April 2004, p. A8
 Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2006. Available at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/familyviolence/pdfs/fv-85-224-XIE2006000_e.pdf
 Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey. Family Violence in Canada: A statistical Profile, 2009, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-224-x/2009000/part-partie5-eng.htm
 Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters. Factum. Alberta Court of Appeal, July (1997).
 Doherty, D. & Hornosty, J, “Exploring the Links: Firearms, Family Vilence and Animal Abuse in Rural Communities,” Fredericton, ND: University of New Brunswick Family Violence on the Farm and in Rural Communities Project, 2007.
 Family vilence Coordination Unit, Department for Victorian Communities of Melbourne, Victoria. 2007. Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management, p. 27.