The gun lobby reloads

Thought gun advocates would be celebrating the demise of the gun registry? Think again.

The gun lobby reloads

Anne-Marie Jackson

The final House of Commons vote to end the federal firearms registry was greeted Feb. 15 on Parliament Hill with a low-key cocktail party. Long-time opponents of the 1995 Liberal gun control bill, still spoken of hissingly out West as C-68, gathered to celebrate with the Prime Minister. Perhaps surprisingly, there was little visible jubilation on the Prairies about the end of a nearly 20-year fight. The streets of Alberta and Saskatchewan did not live up to Torontonian fantasies of whooping cowboys discharging rifles into the air like Pashtuns at an Afghan wedding.

Gun owners, sellers and political advocates know the private member’s bill to end the registry must still traverse the Senate. Quebec has promised litigation to prevent the destruction of the information in the database. And while the registry radicalized a generation of sportsmen, the gun control debate did not begin with C-68; with a vast array of social networks and institutions now in place for the political defence of gun ownership, it won’t end there, either.

“The vote against the registry was a historic day, no two ways about it,” says National Firearms Association spokesman Blair Hagen. “But we’re still opposed to a licensing system that makes paper criminals out of peaceful firearms owners.” The NFA’s ongoing complaints with guns laws range from “possession-only” certification introduced in 1998—which forced all gun owners to acquire a licence, when previously you just needed a licence to purchase a gun—to still-standing provisions in C-68 for warrantless searches of homes by firearms inspectors. “We’re not so much celebrating the defeat of part of a particularly hated law, as we are coming to the realization that reform is possible,” says Hagen.

From the introduction of the original Firearms Acquisition Certificate in 1977, down to the safe-storage laws created by Progressive Conservative justice minister Kim Campbell, passed in 1991, gun owners have been largely on the defensive. (Many may not recall that the polarizing École Polytechnique spree shooting took place in 1989, and that it was a Tory government that first responded with a round of reactive legislation.) Though when the Chrétien government upped the ante in 1993, with an ambitious step toward registration and tracking of all individual weapons, the Liberals failed to anticipate what they had unleashed.

Dave Tomlinson, an Edmontonian who had been a student of gun laws since the 1970s, and who founded the National Firearms Association in 1984, was quick to see how things would play out. “The faster the gun registry gets started,” he said in 1998, “the faster it goes under.” As things turned out, Tomlinson would not live to see the demise of the registry, dying of cancer at age 73, in 2007. “He was a visionary,” recalls Hagen. “It was one thing for Liberal and PC governments to chip away at the rights of firearms owners, but he saw that with universal registration the Liberals had bitten off more than they could chew.”

Business schools are still studying the gun registry as one of the great IT bungles, observes Gary Mauser, a retired Simon Fraser University political scientist whose academic placing and quantitative skills made him, like Tomlinson, a bête noire of gun controllers. The goals and details of the registry changed again and again after the contractors were hired, and the cost exploded. Mauser, still active in research at his home in Coquitlam, B.C., knew little or nothing of guns when he became interested in gun-control law at the time of Campbell’s political battle.

“I started with the question, ‘Does any of this crap work?’ ” Mauser says now. “I’m quite typical of a lot of people who weren’t interested in the political dimensions of gun ownership.” And that included gun owners. “C-68 made them sit up and say, ‘They want to do what?’ ”

The gun registry did not just make Mauser into a gun advocate; over time, his involvement with owners and sellers turned him into a gun collector and black-powder shooting enthusiast. He attended the party in Ottawa as a VIP and witnessed the decisive Commons vote from the gallery, but he has no celebration planned in B.C. Mostly he is watching the muted emails of relief and happiness circulate amongst firearms communities, clubs and mailing lists. “Canadians should feel about 10 per cent less cynical about their government today,” he says. “Apparently there are politicians who are capable of keeping a promise.”


The gun lobby reloads

  1. Hey I’m opposed to a licensing system that makes paper criminals out of peaceful car owners. Don’t get me started on animal licensing.

    •  Do you like warrantless searches of your home and property to ensure your cars and animals are registered too?

      • Well actually it did happen to me and no I don’t enjoy it however, guns only have one purpose — to kill.

        • Skeet shooting?

        • Get a life. People as stupid as you should move to Quebec or maybe that’s where your from anyways

        • The purpose is in the mind of the possessor of the item, not in the item itself.  I have a beautiful antique longbow, it is not now and never has been in 150 years a weapon, just a tool for skilled target shooters.  Are you going to label it a “Weapon” because other longbows  were used to destroy the French aristocracy at Agincourt in 1415 ? Mens Rea means the guilty mind which has been the test in law at least as long.  It is not the object that creates the weapon it is the intent of the possessor.  Anything else is pure Voodoo.  (yes I believe the gun banners are voodoo believers – lead by their queen Kim Cambell and her familiar Wendy Cukier). 

          • What about my heirloom thermonuclear device? I have no intent to use it, so it is not a weapon. 

          • The English used longbows for a good reason, they were good for killing or maiming the enemy and it’s why they chose them and not belt buckles, shovels and broom handles. If you want to hurt someone you’ll more than likely opt for the most effective way to go about it.
            The registry was all about trying to regulate the possession of guns by those with intent, or latent intent, which means pretty much everyone. Rural Canada is more violent than our urban areas. Use of firearms in conjugal acts of violence is well known. No one wants to take a gun away from a peaceful person, whether they’re a farmer or not. The registry (which could always have been improved) was meant to do this and the stats show that it worked.

          •  What stats?  Let’s get some links in here!

        • WOW…… can you walk the streets with Police officers madly out ther trying to kill you all the time.

          • Police officers carry guns because they occasionally have the need to kill people or threaten them with death to ensure compliance.

          • Of course, normal people don’t ever have to kill people or threaten them with death to ensure compliance…eh, Mr. Mugger?

            Or am I supposed to call the police when someone is threatening my life?  But then, when seconds count, the police are minutes away.

          •  And farmers don’t? (or for that matter, a couple hundred other professions as well)

        •  Actually a guns purpose is to provide the mechanical device that enables a firing pin to move forward and strike a cap in the back of a casing holding a bullet, thus creating a small explosion in the casing which results in gases being released in a controlled environment ” the chamber”.  The gas creates extreme pressure on the rear of the bullet and propels it forward. Neither the firearm or the bullet are capable making a decision to kill someone or do any of the steps required to move it,load it,point it then pull the trigger. The killing is done by a man or woman deciding to use it for that purpose. I carried one for 26 years as a police officer and not once did my sidearm escape it’s holder and go on a killing spree.  

    • Or marriage licensing or *shock* birth and death registration! The systems got us pinned at both the ins and outs

      • you really do not have a clue about this issue do you.

        • Why are guns special is the point. Guns are undeniably hazardous, and ought to be controlled. There are hundreds of items or substances you need licenses to possess, use or purchase, from pesticides to pharmaceuticals to cars to planes, etc. All because these are readily hazardous to humans. 

          • But not swimming pools, or over-the-counter drugs.  Both of which cause MUCH more harm every year than legal gun use.  Society is highly selective about which things are registered. Most of that selectivity is based on emotional response, not on cost effectiveness or any notion of utility (if we cared about lives, for example, the highway speed limit wouldn’t be > 90km/h).

            The registry hasn’t saved any lives, and it hasn’t reduced crime.  People keep telling me it does, but no one offers any proof.

    •  I don’t think you’re breaking a law by letting your driver’s license lapse while you still own a car…  Only if you drive it again.

      And animal licensing lapsing isn’t a criminal matter, it’s a simple bylaw fine…

      The qualm they have is that someone who was licensed, and has it lapse, is now criminally liable just for continuing to own the gun.  On some level this seems like a fair complaint.  But on the other hand, there does need to be some sort of penalty for not complying with the review process that is license renewal.

      • So true – I have a whole collection of unregistered vehicles – I collect motorcycles!  No offence there!  The idea of a FAC to buy a firearm so that someone in the government was saying the person was fit to make the purchase was relatively harmless although not too good at screening crazy people – they have privacy rights too!

      • So if it was decriminalized, the registry is just fine?

        • The PAL is not the registry.

    • Car licensing is so you can drive on public roads (You can drive your unregistered car all you want on your private property, registered or not.) and because the lawful use of cars costs society a huge amount of money each year.  Ask a gun-owner you know (you have been around guns, right, or people who actually own guns?) how much their yearly liability runs them.  It’s a tiny fraction of car insurance.  The insurance industry knows a good bet when it sees one.

  2. There is no “right” to own anything in Canada.  I do oppose unauthorized search and entry but if you are irresponsible enough to possess unlicensed firearms then you deserve jail.  These are “tools” that can cause massive amounts of havoc and there is clearly no way to identify when a person will pass the thin line of becoming criminal.

    •  Obviously you don’t know the law. Law in Canada states ‘ We have the right to have and to use arms for self preservation’  Common law is still alive and well in Canada. This right is for  the citizens to be able to protect themselves from Gov’t. in case of tyranny. Therefore the Gov’t really has no right to know who has arms. Read Blackstones Commentaries on Common Law.

  3. The licencing is fair enough, it’s the “safe storage” rules that should be scrapped. By the time you get your gun cabinet unlocked, the trigger locks undone, and the gun loaded, the bear has killed all three of your dogs and now he’s after your chickens. Or your full of lead yourself, if that was your situation. What the hell’s the point of a gun if you can’t use it when you need it? 

    • The point so that your kids don’t get at it and damage themselves or others. It’s not rocket science. Yes, responsible gun owners teach thier kids the dangers of firearms but they’re KIDS, just because yo tell them something doesn’t mean they’ll listen.

      • Thats why you teach your kids from an early age so they don’t find the gun fascinating 

  4. This comment was deleted.

    • So that explains why guns are so popular among soldiers and police officers!  And it explains why guns are becoming more popular among women in the United States.

      And here I thought that gun owners carried guns for self defence, and perhaps also for recreational reasons like target shooting, hunting, and collecting historical pieces.

    • So I guess that explains why the streets of Toronto are awash in handguns, cause you know gun size is a direct relation to penis size ;-). 

  5. i see the usual mix of logic and claptrap.  the price of survival is, and always will be, self defence.  all gun control eliminates this basic human right and requirement, and turns people and their organized bodies, into slaves.  the canadian army is combat ineffective, a classic example of gun control, social oppression of male values, and the suppression of personal responsibility of individuals for their own lives, with widespread digital monitoring and a police state as the alternative for social order.  women love gun control, it makes them powerful, it makes police powerful, it makes men helpless and criminals if they resist police state imperatives. safe storage is a women designed, abuse of power.  i have to lock my guns up, i live alone, in a rural farm.  i cannot shoot predators, or the women call the cops.  the women love the power, they have destroyed the training of two generations of canadian males, they  have established a new social standard of male fear and hatred of defensive skills, they have institutionalized police power, they have destroyed the notion of mmilitary self defence, the country is now ruined. nice that harper kept his promise, classy, but the facts remain. the country is finished.  the army will never recover. canadian males will never recover. they are as useless and helpless now as most western europeans, they are a shadow of what they were for 200 years prior, they are now pathetic.  the scum won. the police state won. 

  6. In my experience over the last 7 years of involvement in support of gun control, one thing became abundantly clear,  this subject draws out more crackpots, misfits and wanna-be-cowboys then any other. The contents of most of these replies is ample evidence of this. It is truly alarming how many of you have guns and think that you need them to be a man. You’re not real men – you’re freaks. I  hope your families can find a way to escape from you and the queer world you must live in.

    •  Big words brian, but as with all gun control supporters, no facts, no research, no understanding, just preadolescent whining. “I don’t like it!  It scares me!  Mommy, make it go away!” Do some research, learn some facts, then come talk to me.  Until then, be very, very careful of who you call a “freak”.

      • Don’t know what you’re on about with this straw man argument. What I call a freak is someone who can’t be a complete, independent, free thinking man without having possession of a firearm.
        Countries with a comprehensive system of firearms controls have fewer gun deaths than countries without. The only state in the US with any degree of gun controls like Canada is Hawaii and they have a level of gun deaths slightly higher than Canada’s, but lower than in any of the other states.
        No government law says you can’t have a gun. If the paperwork is overly complicated, or the service from the CFC is awkward and annoying, than those problems should be addressed.
        One last things about freaks, they are far and away a very small minority. We’ll always have them, which is a another good reason for gun controls and any other means available to keep the rest of us safe, especially the wives and kids who unfortunately have to share a roof with one.

        • RIGHT.

          The people that scare me are the Stalinist control “freaks” who use idiotic statistics to support irrelevant contentions.

          Do yourself a favour… “firearms ownership by country” and “homicide rate by country”. Carefully compare, looking for any comprehensive relationship between the two.

          You won’t find one.  The top 9 countries for private firearms ownership all have homicide rates lower than the world average.

          Which proves gun control is completely useless. 

    • New Hampshire has the second least restrictive gun laws in the United States, and is the safest state in America. Washington, DC has one of the highest murder rates and one of the most restrictive gun laws in the states. go figure, and watch who you call a freak

    • I didn’t buy my guns to be a man. I bought them so I could hunt. The half dozen women I’ve hunted with over the years would be very insulted by your remarks. Why are all you gun control people such idiots?

      • Glen, if you read what I wrote you would have noticed that I addressed those
        who need guns to complete themselves, or to be a man – not everyone. So
        let me repeat what I said, only a bit differently. Anyone who absolutely
        needs a gun to feel good about themselves is pitiful. It has nothing to
        do with those who hunt. I am a hunter.

  7. I’d say the freak is the guy who goes into a hissy fit because some people own products that he personally doesn’t wish to own. If you don’t want to own a firearm, fine. Many other people do, and will continue to do so under no intense desire to keep either you or Stephen Harper aprised as to the quantity or type in their possession.

  8. After having read the many varied comments, I’d like to offer my own observation of the situation. calling someone a name , is childish. People (Men & Women) own guns for a variety of reasons, one of the least is to be a “Man”. No doubt they are dangerous, this is why one must pass a number of tests to qualify, this is good. The registry is both good and bad, most forms of Government laws have faults. The strongest point is someone trained and qualified to own guns and honest enough to register them is least likely to use them in a violent scenario. The main argument I hear, is most of the violent crimes are comitted by unlicensed people using unregistered guns

    • Actually, yes, I agree with you. I ventured forth with the wanna-be-a-man line because for many gun proponents it is an aspect of their reasoning.
      Most gun deaths in Canada are suicides, not gang related killings on the streets of Toronto, or other large cities, and there is much domestic violence with a firearm somewhere in the mix. Rural Canada is statistically more problematic than urban areas. These facts are ones the Harper government rarely addresses. They have instead played politics on people’s emotional attachments from the beginning by reinforcing the notion that they are victims, or have been criminalized, and not just some of them, but all of them.
      Gun controls do work and anyone wanting to prove otherwise has to ignore the learned opinion of the hundreds of organizations who work with the victims of gun violence every day.
      If controls are paper heavy, opaque, time consuming etc. then minds should be put to the task of improving them.
      I have an admiration for the technical side of firearms and in my youth hunted. Controls are a strong incentive to proper handling and care of firearms, among other things. We should never look to failed states for better ways to run our affairs here.

      • Gun control is in-effective and wastes millions if not billions each year. The streets WOULD be safer  if they would invest that same money into mental health programs instead on some flawed philosophy. People who are against guns support the nanny state Canada has become hence why we don’t have the balls to stand up for our rights anymore.

        The only person that scares me with a gun is a Liberal bureaucrat who knows jack all about them. Gun Control has killed more innocent people then  not having any forms of control. Look at California,New York, New Jersey and Illinois which all have very bone headed laws and their crime rates are higher then that of Arizona or utah