Canada: Toronto victims support long-gun registry

16 September 2010

Let us not forget the victims. That was the message from a group of people who gathered at Toronto Police headquarters Wednesday, united by tragic circumstances and desperate pleas to save the long-gun registry.

“It is very difficult for us to be here today but we feel it critically important to do so because we know what it is like to have a beloved family member killed by a gun,” Bob Pajkowski said as his wife, Dianne, held up a picture of their 21-year-old daughter, Melissa.

In April 1999, Melissa’s abusive and mentally unstable ex-boyfriend shot her twice with a legally purchased .22-calibre handgun that was not registered.

For Priscilla de Villiers, it was a .22-calibre rifle that ended the life of her daughter, Nina, who was abducted from a Burlington tennis court in 1991.

“I think the message is quite simple: All guns are potentially lethal, regardless of the size, length of the barrel, how they were acquired, who owns them,” de Villiers said. “We need to do whatever we can to ensure that they’re not falling into the hands of dangerous people.”

The gathering took place a week before a private member’s bill scrapping the long-gun registry goes to third reading in the House of Commons.

Some opposition members have accused the Conservatives of using Bill C-391 to pit urban and rural populations against each other.

“I’ve virtually not heard the word ‘victim.’ I’ve not heard the word ‘tragedy.’ I’ve not heard the word ‘terrible hurt’ or ‘intimidation’ or ‘threat,’” said de Villiers of the back-and-forth debate that has made headlines over the last month. “The burden placed on gun owners is very limited compared with the burden that we, the victims, face if in fact weapons are used and fall into the wrong hands.”

Elaine Lumley spoke for her 20-year-old son, Aidan, who was fatally shot during a weekend trip to Montreal in 2005.

“Any gun in the wrong hands is lethal. We must stop equating freedom with owning an unregistered firearm. A gun does not equal freedom,” Lumley said. “It’s not too late to call your MP and tell them how you feel. We need more gun control, not less.”

Other speakers included Louise Russo, who was permanently disabled when she was hit by a stray bullet in 2004, and Heather Imming, who said the gun registry saved her because it took guns out of the hands of her abusive husband.

“The reality is that legally acquired rifles and shotguns are the weapons of choice in domestic homicide,” said Brian Vallée, author of Life with Billy and The War on Women. “Registration does not kill anybody. Not-registration has and will continue to.”

Last Updated: September 15, 2010 5:08pm

The Toronto Sun