Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Canadian Manifesto 11: God, Guns and Gays

Throughout the 1990s, especially the early years, the Canadian Reform Party and the American Republican Party were forging ties, that have proven to be lasting.

They share policies, initiatives, staff, and even financing.

One name that comes up often is Morton Blackwell, founder of the Washington based Leadership Institute, where young conservatives are trained in the art of political guerrilla warfare.  Karl Rove, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed are all graduates of his program.

Blackwell was co-founder of the Moral Majority, and was Ronald Reagan's liaison with the Religious Right.  He once claimed that the Evangelical community was "the greatest tract of virgin timber on the political landscape."

It was Blackwell who invited Stephen Harper to speak at the Montreal conference of the Council for National Policy, an organization where foreign affairs and religion are mixed, and made to fit the Old Testament.  In other words, they promote perpetual war.

Blackwell was also called upon by Preston Manning to help him establish a Canadian branch of the Leadership Institute, giving birth to the Manning Centre For Building Democracy.  A dubious title for a training centre that teaches the art of undermining democracy.

His U.S. counterpart was more than happy to help out, saying that he offers his services for free, to any groups "trying to be conservative in the U.S. sense of the word". (1)

About God's Love of Guns

One of the advisers at the Leadership Institute is James Inhofe, the Republican senator from Oklahoma.  In 1994, the Republicans were determined to sweep the mid-term election, so pulled out all the stops.  Frank Luntz left the Reform Party and helped to draft the Contract With America, while Republican leader Newt Gingrich, studied Preston Manning's anti-government campaigning

The Evangelical army that had put Ronald Reagan on the throne, were once again mobilized for action and every right-wing group in the country was on speed dial.

But perhaps the most important factor in the success of the Republicans then, was when they put a gun in God's hands and changed the profile of a religious activist, from one wanting to do what was right, to one so filled with hatred that it now consumes them.

Because 1994 was the year when the National Rifle Association found a loophole in the election financing laws, and began to interfere in the democratic process.  They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to target Democrats who supported gun control, in particular, the Brady Act.

One campaign that was fought with NRA ammo was that of Inhofe, who was running against the incumbent Dave McCurdy.  With graduates from the Leadership Institute, including our own Rob Anders, McCurdy was shell shocked.
The NRA’s PAC spent more than $150,000 in independent expenditures to run television and newspaper advertisements and put up billboards denouncing McCurdy in addition to the $9,900 it gave directly to Inhofe, just under the maximum $10,000 allowable under FEC regulations. The NRA also spent thousands of dollars more urging its Oklahoma members to turn out for Inhofe. It was an all-out attack that turned the tide against McCurdy. (2)
Inhofe ran on a campaign of 'God, Guns and Gays', a slogan later borrowed by the Republican National Committee.  However, most NRA sponsored ads did not mention guns at all.  In one TV spot, they showed McCurdy at a distance and then zoomed in to reveal that he was wearing an Aids ribbon.

The same kind of gunfight took place across the country, as the NRA took up the cause for Republican hopefuls.  Christine Todd Whitman, the woman who loaned out her Common Sense Revolution to Mike Harris in Ontario,  garnered $ 200,000 in free ads.

Recognizing a good thing when they saw it, Harris's team then sent a letter to the Canadian branch of the NRA, the National Firearms Association, promising to do what he could to kill Bill C-68, and the Gun Registry.  The NFA published the letter as an encouragement for their members to get out and vote.

This was not the organization's only foray into conservative politics.  They had been active supporters of the Reform Party, and made a huge impact in 1997, when Reform became the official opposition.  According to the book Rebuilding Canadian Party Politics:
During the campaign, the NFA's political clout was put at the disposal of the Reform Party. In a memo to supporters, NFA president David Tomlinson noted that the only party offering a "trustworthy promise of an immediate turn toward dumping the Liberal game plan, revoking Bill C-68 and bringing in a completely tweeked firearms control system that will ... favor our firearms community is the Reform Party." Using images of war and battle, Tomlinson exhorted any member who was not a political activist to "get off your butt and become one".

During the 1997 election, signs bearing the somewhat ambiguous message "Remember Bill C-68 When You Vote" were a common sight in rural areas where gun ownership is concentrated. Part of the National Firearms Association's (NFA) extensive and ambitious campaign to defeat the Liberal government and the gun-control legislation it had supported. These signs signalled widespread discontent over firearms legislation in parts of the country.

He [Tomlinson]called on NFA supporters to work for, donate money, goods and services to, and promote the Reform Party". Tomlinson himself was president of a Reform Party constituency association in Edmonton. NFA activists apparently heeded Tomlinsons call. Messages posted on the organization's website throughout the election reflected considerable involvement in Reform campaigns,. Activists compared notes about the travails of keeping Reform signs in place, boasted about their campaign activity and contributions, and called for volunteers to help at local Reform offices.
The New Right movement has many "signals" and according to David Kuo, the term "believers' is assigned to anyone believing in three things: the end of abortion, the end of gay rights, and the right to carry a gun. In an oped piece Harper wrote in 1995, he claimed that Reform was about "Gays, Guns and Government Grants".

He was a "believer".

Gun Control is Not a Liberal Issue

In their effort to make everything liberal evil, the New Right has called gun control, besides a feminist plot to destroy their masculinity (honest), a 'liberal folly'.  However, the idea of gun control, was actually a conservative priority.

Richard Nixon once said that "guns are an abomination," and went on to confess that  "Free from fear of gun owners' retaliation at the polls, he favored making handguns illegal and requiring licenses for hunting rifles."

George Bush, Sr. banned the import of "assault weapons" in 1989, and promoted the view that Americans should only be allowed to own weapons suitable for "sporting purposes."

When Ronald Reagan was Governor of California, he signed the Mulford Act in 1967, "prohibiting the carrying of firearms on one's person or in a vehicle, in any public place or on any public street." 

Twenty-four years later, Reagan was still pushing gun control. "I support the Brady Bill," he said in a March 28, 1991 speech, "and I urge the Congress to enact it without further delay." 

After all, the act was put in place because he was shot, and named after the man who died protecting him.

Republican Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, actually sued 26 gun manufacturers in June 2000, and his police commissioner, Howard Safir, proposed a nationwide plan for gun licensing, complete with yearly "safety" inspections.

Another Republican, New York State Governor George Pataki, on August 10, 2000, signed into law what The New York Times called "the nation’s strictest gun controls," a radical program mandating trigger locks, background checks at gun shows and "ballistic fingerprinting" of guns sold in the state. It also raised the legal age to buy a handgun to 21 and banned "assault weapons," the sale or possession of which would now be punishable by seven years in prison. (4)

In Canada, the first aggressive gun control, was at the request of then Ontario Conservative Premier William Davis.   After a student opened fire at the school his daughters attended, killing one teacher and injuring 13 students, he sent his attorney general, John Clement, to Ottawa to meet with the Liberal government.
Armed with a petition bearing thousands of names of Brampton residents, demanding better gun control, Clement met with federal Justice Minister Otto Lang and Solicitor General Warren Allmand to review possible amendments to the Criminal code. (5)
Though Clement failed to get re-elected, he is credited with the passing of  Bill C-51 in 1977, that came into affect on January 1, 1978:
The two biggest changes included requirements for Firearms Acquisition Certificates (FACs) and requirements for Firearms and Ammunition Business Permits. Other changes included provisions dealing with new offences, search and seizure powers, increased penalties, and new definitions for prohibited and restricted weapons. Fully automatic weapons became classified as prohibited firearms unless they had been registered as restricted weapons before January 1, 1978. Individuals could no longer carry a restricted weapon to protect property. Mandatory minimum sentences were re-introduced. This time, they were in the form of a 1-14 year consecutive sentence for the actual use (not mere possession) of a firearm to commit an indictable offence. (Wikipedia)
And for the record, John Clement is Tony Clement's stepfather.

Gun control is not a partisan issue.  It is a Canadian issue.

This past election, gun lobbyists were again out in full force.  Mark Holland, former Liberal MP for Ajax-Pickering, was targeted by several groups, including Gun Nutz.  The Conservatives wanted him gone because he had been a vocal supporter of both the Prison Farms and the Gun Registry.

What does it say for the future of our democracy, when those wanting to create a Canadian "Gun Culture", can affect the outcome of an election?  And what does it say for Christianity, when the devout are behind them?

Using Romans 13 that establishes the "boundaries of governments", they are now advocating that we all should be armed.  And they wonder why people are leaving churches in droves.  How is this inspiring to anyone?

The truth of the matter is, that the New Right saw an opportunity for support from gun lobbyists, who are financed by gun manufacturers.  The potential outcome of the end of gun control, is not important.  Only the money and the power.

Conservative insider, Tom Flanagan, said that Stephen Harper wrote the Reform Party gun policy, only stopping short at calling it a right to bear arms.  This has nothing to do with long guns, or farmers, but is to appease those who want bigger and more lethal handguns, and want the right to carry them anywhere.

They claim that the streets will be safer.

If that were the case than the United States would be the safest country in the world.

It's not.


1. The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, By: Marci McDonald, Random House Canada, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-307-35646-8 3, p. 104-105

2. Political Snipers, By Robert Dreyfuss, American Prospect, September 21, 1995

3. Rebuilding Canadian Party Politics, By R. Kenneth Carty, William Paul Cross, Lisa Young, UBC Press, 2000, ISBN: 978 0774 807784, p. 99-100

4. Don't Blame the Liberals for Gun Controlby Richard Poe, Studies in Reformed Theology, Volume 11, 2001

5.  Another School Shooting, Thoughts From up Here, March 22, 2005

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