Next week, left-leaning politicians, as usual, will forget whatever principles they once pretended to possess, and instead vote to save their own skins.
That, more or less, shows how democracy in this country works, and how low the discussion surrounding the long-gun registry has sunk.
We all know that NDP leader Jack Layton has pledged to put down the parliamentary whip for the vote on Bill C-391 on Sept. 22 and let his party members with their consciences, but the latest defections of former supporters of the bill in recent weeks makes you wonder if he isn’t kicking them hard in the shins under the table.
So far, from the ranks of those 12 who voted in favour of Manitoba Tory MP Candace Hoeppner’s private member’s bill to finally drive a stake through the heart of the money-sucking vampire, two have switched to the other side.
Eight Liberals also voted to kill the registry in a prior vote, but they have since ducked back under the “big red tent,” cowed by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s darkly brooding eyebrows, no doubt.
The latest NDPer, Glenn Thibeault, from Sudbury, Ont., claims his constituents were so moved by the wisdom of Layton’s compromise – which is eerie in its resemblance to a much earlier proposal by the Liberals – that they now support the registry, and therefore, he will too.
Before him there was Charlie Angus, an NDP MP from northern Ontario. Angus claims that the unending stream of “whack-job conspiracy theories” emanating from long-time gun rights proponent Garry Breitkreuz have so disgusted him and his rural supporters that now they all back the registry.
Breitkreuz’s offence was suggesting, like he has for years on end, that the registry serves no useful purpose other than to provide a blueprint for the state to confiscate guns.
Of course, just as there are conspiracy “theories,” there are also conspiracy “facts.”
First, the numbers.
Licensed Canadian gun owners, at 1.8 million strong and with some 7.5 million registered guns, represent over five per cent of the population, according to the Canadian Firearms Program.
Those are the people already in the system. But according to the Law-Abiding Unregistered Firearms Association, which was set up by an ex-Mountie, there could be as many as five million more who remain unlicensed and in possession of some 20 million guns.
Those people have chosen the course of civil disobedience instead of going through the licensing process for owning the tools of their sport – or profession, in case they are farmers.
The only explanation for their reluctance is fear: Once in the system, it is impossible to get out. Many suspect confiscation will follow registration as surely as night follows day.
Consider this: In the UK and Australia, gun rights have been essentially eliminated.
Just as it was in Canada, where killer Marc Lepine singled out and murdered 14 women at a Quebec college in 1989, mass shootings in the 1990s were the catalyst for opportunistic politicians to crush gun freedoms forever.
Handguns are now virtually banned in the UK, and even the British Olympic shooting team has to go to Switzerland to practice its sport. In Australia, after the prime minister of the time denounced guns as “evil,” all semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns were confiscated en masse.
How was that possible?
It was simple, really. All those guns were registered. The letters went out, and law-abiding gun owners either complied or went to jail.
Can’t happen in Canada?
When the Firearms Act was introduced in 1995 – just months after Allan Rock famously said “there is no reason to confiscate legally owned firearms” – restricted small-calibre pistols and those with short barrels were summarily dumped into the prohibited class.
Some 500,000 guns – half of all the legal handguns in the country – were essentially confiscated at the stroke of a pen. Rifles and shotguns have been grabbed, too, on occasion, for no reason other than the RCMP think they look scary.
Here in Canada, gun ownership, we are constantly reminded, is a privilege, not a right. That means bureaucrats and politicians can take that privilege away whenever they feel it is politically expedient to do so.
But is there a solution that respects both the need of police to trace firearms and the tradition of Canadians as outdoorsy, self-reliant folks who would never dream of hurting anyone and just plain enjoy shooting, hunting and protecting their flocks?
I think there is. Down south, it’s called the Second Amendment. Right up there near the top, spelled out in politician-proof, indelible ink.
Canadians are reasonable people, and Canadian gun owners are people just like everyone else. Give them a black-letter guarantee like that, and I’ll bet they’d line up in droves to register their guns.
– Daniel Winters is a reporter for theCo-operator and can
be reached at [email protected]