Long Gun Registry: Politics Trumps Common Sense

The Long Gun Registry has been a point of contention here in Canada. It aligns rural against urban citizens, and by extension has become a wedge issue for political parties centered around their base of support. The Conservative Party power base has long been more rural than urban, while the other parties (Liberal and NDP) draw support from urban centers. It comes as no surprise that the Conservatives want the Registry scrapped, while the Liberals and NDP want it maintained.

Being a city dweller myself, I don’t really see the need for a firearm at all; be it a shotgun, rifle, handgun or whatever. However, I understand that hunters and those who live in rural areas have a different view, using guns as tools or as a means of recreation. I don’t have a problem with that in general… guns just aren’t my thing.

Key arguments against the registry are its cost and program mismanagement. People argue that the registry was created as a knee-jerk reaction to a school shooting 20 years ago in Montreal. The need to be seen as “doing something” resulted in a poorly realized and poorly run government program. I don’t necessarily disagree – it has cost too much money to set up, and the management of the program has been terrible. This doesn’t make the idea flawed, only the execution.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party made abolishing the Long Gun Registry a pillar of their election platform, citing waste, cost overruns and poor management. While these reasons make sense on the surface, it is surprising that the typically law-and-order Conservative Party hasn’t attempted to replace the Registry with something that is better managed and/or more cost efficient. When viewed from this perspective, it seems far more likely that the Conservatives used the Registry as a wedge issue to stir up their rural power base and create the type of “us-versus-them” rhetoric that has played so well for the Republican Party in the USA.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives argue that the registry doesn’t help police forces do their jobs. Police officers need to expect and be prepared for a gun every time to enter into a situation. If this preparation is needed either way, why bother paying for the Registry? It doesn’t matter that law enforcement agencies have said the Registry is helpful and would like to keep it (or some form of it). Harper promised to scrap it, no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts”.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives argue that criminals won’t go register their guns, so why add a burden to the law abiding citizens? Using that logic, why do we have laws that outlaw theft and murder? Only criminals do those things, not good law abiding citizens like you and I. If a criminal is going to steal regardless of the law, then shouldn’t we just get rid of the law? Why burden good people with all these laws that clearly don’t apply to them, right?

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives argue that most gun crimes are committed with unregistered or illegal firearms. Every gun in this country started out as a legal firearm, before somehow finding its way into the hands of a criminal. Having all firearms registered would increase the burden of responsibility on the purchaser, making sure that any sale would be properly documented. If Tony buys a gun and sells it to Steve, Tony will want to make sure that this sale is documented if Steve were to then go commit a crime using that very same gun.

While arguing that the Long Gun Registry should be scrapped, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives haven’t said a single thing about scrapping the requirement that hand guns be registered. I personally don’t understand the difference. Both are weapons, firing projectiles that can kill a person. Arguing to register one but not the another is akin to saying that you needed a vehicle registration for your 4 door sedan, but not for your minivan.

The refusal of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to hand any of the Registry information over to the provinces, namely Quebec, just comes off as a spiteful move on the government’s part. Harper said he’d scrap the Registry, and no one is going to tell him differently. You don’t disagree with Stephen Harper.

If “Evil, Corrupt and  French Quebec” could make a registry work when Harper swore up and down that it was flawed and broken beyond all repair, what would that say about Stephen Harper’s Conservatives? Stephen Harper is afraid of the answer, and this is why the registry will be buried in the deepest hole the Conservative Party can find.

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