It's rather interesting speaking to those who oppose the gun registry and the reasons for doing so, just how misinformed they are.
"It's a Liberal boondoggle"
"It goes against our freedoms"
"The police don't want it"
"All Canadians should be able to carry a gun to protect themselves, or at least have a gun in the home to protect their property"
And of course the classic: "Guns don't kill people, people kill people". For anyone who has had a family member or friend, who has been shot, including myself, we can assure you that guns do indeed kill people.
So let's break down these myths.
"It's a Liberal boondoggle"
Following is a brief history of Canada's gun control:
1892: The Criminal Code of Canada enacted in 1892, required individuals to have a permit to carry a pistol unless the owner had cause to fear assault or injury. It was an offence to sell a pistol to anyone under 16. Vendors who sold handguns had to keep records, including purchaser's name, the date of sale and a description of the gun. Conservative prime minister, John Thompson
1934: New legislation required the registration of handguns with records identifying the owner, the owner's address and the firearm. Registration certificates were issued and records kept by the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) or by other police forces designated by provincial Attorneys General. Conservative prime minister: R.B. Bennett
1951: Automatic weapons were added to the category of firearms that had to be registered. The registry system was centralized under the Commissioner of the RCMP. Liberal prime minister, Louis St. Laurent
1969: Bill C-150 created categories of "non-restricted," "restricted" and "prohibited" weapons. Police were also given preventive powers of search and seizure by judicial warrant if they had grounds to believe that weapons that belonged to an individual endangered the safety of society. Liberal prime minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau
1977: Bill C-51 required Firearms Acquisition Certificates (FACs) for the acquisition (but not possession) of all firearms and introduced controls on the selling of ammunition. FAC applicants were required to pass a basic criminal record check before being issued an FAC. Fully automatic weapons were also prohibited. Liberal prime minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau
However, this 1977 Liberal Bill came about after the 1975 school shooting incident at the Brampton Centennial Secondary School, attended by then Ontario [Conservative] Premier Bill Davis's daughters. Davis had his attorney-general connect with the federal government to see what could be done. Armed with a petition bearing thousands of names of Brampton residents, demanding better gun control, he met with federal Justice Minister Otto Lang and Solicitor General Warren Allmand to review possible amendments to the Criminal code. (1) As a result Bill C-51 was passed in 1977, and came into affect on January 1, 1978
Oh, and that Ontario Attorney General? His name was John Clement and he would later marry the mother of Anthony Panayi, and though already an adult, Anthony took on the name of his stepfather, and from then on began calling himself Tony Clement.
So while Trudeau was in power at the time, the initiative was a Conservative one.
1991: Bill C-17 tightened up restrictions and established controls on any firearms that had a military or paramilitary appearance. Legislation also made changes to the FAC system. FAC applicants were now required to pass a firearms safety course, pass a more thorough background check, and wait a minimum of 28 days after applying for an FAC before being issued one. Finally in addition to the above changes, laws were put into place that restricted ownership of high capacity magazines, limiting handguns to 10 rounds and most semi-automatic rifles to 5. The restrictions did not cover rimfire rifles or manual ( e.g., bolt action rifles). Conservative prime minister, Brian Mulroney
1995: Bill C-68 introduced new, stricter, gun control legislation. The current legislation provides harsher penalties for crimes involving firearm use, licenses to possess and acquire firearms, and registration of all firearms, including shotguns and rifles. This legislation was upheld by the Supreme Court in Reference re Firearms Act (2000). The FAC system was replaced with Possession Only Licences (POLs) and Possession and Acquisition Licences (PALs). Liberal prime minister, Jean Chretien
There is also an interesting story about Bill C-68. Stephen Harper, then a Reform MP, voted in favour of Bill C-68, until he realized that his future "base" was opposed and then voted against it. In 2002, during the leadership race against Stockwell Day, Day brought up this issue, accusing Harper of supporting gun control in Canada.
Stephen Harper immediately fired off a Letter to the Editor.
" I would like to take this opportunity to clarify statements made by Stockwell Day. During the Vancouver leadership debate on January 24, Stockwell Day threw out a confusing bit of information designed to misinform the public about my voting record on Bill C-68, the so-called gun control bill. Mr. Day also suggested that I should have voted the party line and not voted my constituents’ wishes.
"There is an important issue here. We, as elected Members of Parliament, go to Ottawa to represent the wishes of our constituents. Our party has always stood for that basic grassroots principle since it was first written into the Blue Book. For the record, I did represent my constituents’ wishes and vote for Bill C-68 at second reading. What Mr. Day failed to mention is that I then worked hard to explain to my constituents why that piece of legislation was flawed.
"And at third reading – the one that matters because it makes a bill a law - my constituents gave me a mandate to oppose the bill. I voted No to Bill C-68. Sincerely yours, Stephen Harper" (2)
He then added an interesting post-script:
PS: I am pleased to add that I have received an endorsement from Professor Gary Mauser, a well-known authority on gun control. Dr. Mauser writes: “As a long-time opponent of Bill C-68, I have no trouble supporting Stephen for Leader of the Canadian Alliance. Stephen has repeatedly said he opposes firearm registration, and he has promised as Leader of the Alliance he would repeal Bill C-68 when the Alliance forms government. I believe Stephen Harper is the best candidate in the race to replace Stockwell Day. I strongly urge gun owners to join me in working to elect Stephen Harper as the Leader of the Canadian Alliance.” (2)And who is Professor Gary Mauser? This guy:
Canada never wrote the "right to bear arms" into it's constitution. However, what I find interesting are some suggestions that I found on various "pro-gun" sites, as an alternative to the gun registry. This is a selection:
- Make it significantly easier for police to gain search warrants for searching property
- Restrict anyone who is currently undergoing a divorce from owning a gun. Most gun murders are spousal related. The guns should be taken away temporarily and returned after the divorce is finalized
- Stricter no gun policies at schools and no warrants required to search school property on suspicion of guns being stored on school property. Publicly owned community centres, libraries and other public institutions should also require no warrant for police to search the premises.
- Increase the number of police officers in undercover roles
- place armed security at schools
In other words, turn Canada into a police state. I think I would rather take a few minutes and register my gun if I owned one, than allow the police the power to search my dwelling without warrant. I love the divorce one though. If it is that volatile that it could lead to murder, why would the simple finality of divorce, remove the threat?
"The police don't want it"
Before the vote on the registry, Peter Van Loan sat on an RCMP report that spoke in favour of the gun registry:
Harper instead fired Mountie Marty Cheliak, for speaking in favour of the registry, despite the fact that the police agencies clearly want to keep it.
Critics of the long-gun registry insisted that it is of little use to the police and not worth maintaining. This argument was effectively rebutted in an RCMP report on the registry that was released two days after the vote. At the time, Peter Van Loan, then minister of public safety, said the report had been in his hands only for "several days."
Now we learn – thanks to a trail of government emails obtained by the Star's Tonda MacCharles – that it was more like seven weeks, and that Van Loan's officials used every trick in the book to stall the report. They disputed its statistics and questioned why the report was produced at all. They even launched a witch hunt over an innocuous banquet held by the gun registry's staff. (It turned out that the staffers had paid for the event themselves.)
For the record, the report noted that police use of the gun registry is increasing rapidly – to 3.4 million checks in 2008, up from 2.5 million the year before – and it said this "highlights the importance" of the registry to law enforcement. (3)
We Must keep the registry
We need this gun registry and I was so glad that Liberal MP Wayne Easter, has said that he will change his vote, and that Michael Ignatieff is going to "whip" the bill.
Driving a wedge between Canadians is what Harper does best.
Easter, the MP for the P.E.I. riding of Malpeque, said he initially supported Hoeppner's bill because he wanted to spark debate within his party on how some rural Canadians felt on the issue. Since then, the MP said Ignatieff has found "some middle ground" by proposing changes to the registry, including making a first-time failure to register a firearm a non-criminal ticketing offence, as well as eliminating fees for new licences, renewals and upgrades.
"I certainly will be supporting my leader in the compromise position he's put forward, which is a win-win," Easter told reporters on Tuesday in Ottawa during a news conference on Conservative patronage appointments. He also decried Prime Minister Stephen Harper for using a backbencher to drive a "wedge" between Canadians. (4)
1. Another school shooting, Thoughts From up Here, March 22, 2005
2. Stephen Harper letter to the editor, Guns and Democracy, January 28, 2002
3. Gun bill hanky-panky, Toronto Star, March 1, 2010
4. Easter to support long-gun registry: P.E.I. Liberal MP to switch vote, praises Ignatieff's 'middle ground' approach, CBC News, August 24, 2010