Monday, January 12, 2009

The long gun registry should be scrapped

I don't know if he'll take flack in his own party, but given that the NDP certainly has other MPs that represent rural constituencies, I'm pretty sure he's not the only one in his party or his caucus to hold this view. And it's a view I share, as do many Liberal from rural ridings, including, I'm sure, inside caucus. Hand-gun registry absolutely, but the long-gun registry makes no sense and should be scrapped:

A New Democrat member of Parliament is taking aim at Canada's long-gun registration program.

Northwestern Ontario MP John Rafferty wants the program scrapped.

He says he intends to introduce a private member's bill to that end when the House of Commons resumes sitting.

Rafferty says the money that goes to the program now would be better spent on police enforcement initiatives.

He admits many in his own party have different views, but says he is following the wishes of his constituents in his predominantly rural riding of Thunder Bay-River River.

Other MPs have introduced similar bills in the past, only to see them go nowhere.

I strongly support gun control. But long guns, aka rifles, are another kettle of fish. This really is an urban/rural thing. And for the Liberal Party, it's kind of a chicken or the egg thing. We have trouble electing rural MPs because of our policies on issues like this. And we get our policies on issues like this wrong because we don't have the perspective of rural MPs at the caucus table. A tough circle to square.

I went into greater depth on the issue a few years ago.

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Steve V said...


As soon as we started hearing about reclaiming some lost ground in rural ridings, or at least getting in the game, my first thought was wondering if we'd be bold enough to abandon this policy. I know the rural perspective well on this, from different parts of the country, and it's a core issue, that speaks to a cultural enfringement almost. If you want to turn the page, re-visiting the gun registry would be most encouraging. Maybe an NDP bill will make it easier to drift away from a legacy, sometimes if you reverse it's seen as a criticism of past lineage, always a challenge for this party.

Pareta said...

Great post, and I agree with your comments Steve. But perhaps rather than use the word, "abandon" I'd focus on "updating," or "revamping" our gun control policy.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I think that we can make a legitimate argument that what may have seemed like comprehensive gun control 7 or 8 years ago is in retrospect simply a bit over-zealous.

Legislative flexibility is an important aspect of well-functioning democracies driven by ideals but anchored in pragmatism. Surely this is a perfect example of a policy that is still important, but whose legislation needs some tinkering.

Oxford County Liberals said...

I grew up and currently LIVE in a rural riding, and the right thing to do is to keep the registry for all guns. We shouldn't be abandoning the right policy for an attempt at currying rural riding favour.

I can tell you, as an example, that Oxford will not go Liberal if we were to abandon this - they're too "blue" on other issues, and they'd (correctly) view it as voter-pandering. That will be the same elsewhere.. do any of you seriously think rural Alberta or BC will go Liberal if we decide to backtrack on this?

By all means find issues to appeal to rural voters, but don't do it by trying to sell us as "Conservative Lite".

Jennifer Smith said...

There may be an emotional schism between urban and rural on the issue of guns, but remember that not all gun crimes are committed by urban gangbangers with handguns. At least a third are committed with long guns, and a great many are domestic crimes or fights between friends or neighbours.

I am a hunter and a gun owner, and I have never, ever understood the intense resistance to the gun registry. Maybe it's a guy thing. Ok, sure, when it was first proposed at... what, $150 per gun? Yeah, I can see that being an issue if you own a pile of guns.

But then people bitched and moaned and it was knocked down to $75. Then $35. Now it's FREE. Which of course has meant that all of the cost of the program is put on all taxpayers instead of on the gun owners as originally intended, and suddenly everyone's complaining that it's costing millions. No kidding.

You have to register your car and renew every year. I see no reason why people should get so upset about registering their shotguns. I know that they do, of course, and for that reason it may well be time to give it up since it isn't being enforced. If it had been enforced and at least partially funded through registration fees, it probably would have been more useful.

Gayle said...

" any of you seriously think rural Alberta or BC will go Liberal if we decide to backtrack on this?"


The police use this registry. In fact, just a couple days ago a lawyer friend of mine was telling me about a case where the police responded to a break and enter in progress, and they made sure they had their "SWAT" team there because they knew the home contained guns.

I come from a family that has three gun owners, all of whom are bitterly opposed to the gun registry, so I hear that side all the time. But at the end of the day it is quite true that we register our cars, we all have SIN numbers, my doctor knows whenever I have been to see another doctor because that information goes along with my health care number, the banks can track how and where we spend our money on our credit cards and our debit cards. Hell - someone can find out when and where we have been on line, and what sites we have visited. Do I even need to mention security cameras and red light cameras?

We give up so much privacy all the time. Telling the police that we own guns is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Steve V said...

"do any of you seriously think rural Alberta or BC will go Liberal if we decide to backtrack on this?"

Obviously not, but as someone who lived in rural BC and now lives in rural Ontario, you mention "Liberal" and I guarantee one of the chief bitch items is this registry. It's a real irritant, and it's also clearly a policy that was hatched in office corridors, that never really consulted the people most affected. It's a symbol for the urban/rural divide.

Jeff said...

Steve, it would be very interesting to see the party officially get behind this, but given the urban considerations, it's probably unlikely. I would settle though for it being a free vote, with some positive comments from the leadership about understanding rural yeada yada. If Harper lets his people vote freely, I think such a bill would likely get enough opposition support to pass.

Good points pareta.

Scott, this isn't about pandering, or merely about trying to swing ridings. Many rural Liberals feel offbase with their party on this issue. I know many Liberals who oppose a long gun registry who wouldn't appreciate being called Conservative Lite. For them, it's not a political spectrum issue, it's a way of life issue. If you do want to reach out to rural Canadians though, it's not about any one issue, it's about showing an understanding. And besides, I'm unconvinced the long gun registry is good policy anyways.

Ames Way said...

I recently spoke to a former Liberal Minister of Agriculture who said that the way to win rural votes is with spending on things that all Canadians want like health care, education and infrastructure.
He didn't think that so called rural issues would win the Liberals anymore votes.

The Rat said...

Jennifer Smith wrote:

"I am a hunter and a gun owner, and I have never, ever understood the intense resistance to the gun registry. "

I bet you never owned a gun that government just decided one day was too mean looking and seized it without compensation. I wonder just how much you know about the history of Liberal/PC gun grabs. For starters, did you know it was perfectly legal to own a heavy machine gun up until the late seventies? Yet there had never been a robbery committed with one in Canada. Or can you tell me why .25 and .32 calibre handguns are banned (but not .357 mugnum, or .50 calibre)? Are those two calibres especially dangerous? Or was it that they were the two most popular calibres of handgun in private possession and so a blanket ban took a whole whack of them out of circulation?

How about telling us why my Russian made SVT-40, a semi-auto WWII rifle is OK, but a semi-auto AR15 isn't? Is it because the AR15 looks "meaner"?

The facts are simple: The government bans and confiscates guns in order to score points with un-knowledgeable urbanites. THAT'S pandering! And the costs are borne by gun owners, who legally purchased their guns, when their property is stolen by the government. To people who know the history of "gun control" in Canada the registry is just a great big shopping list for vote hungry progressives.

Anonymous said...

I am unsure of what the current party position is for the NDP but certainly when the registry was first introduced the NDP at the time voted against it.

Steve V said...


A free vote would be a good idea, at least in terms of symbolism.

swjohnston7 said...

One of the major reasons why the Liberals will not scrap long gun registration is the very reason why the NRA strikes such a cord with rural conservatives throughout the U.S.. Our American neighbors proved that private gun ownership is the final means of protecting constitutional rights of democracy. Private gun ownership ensures that the people remain the final arbiters to the limits of government rule. Many in the Canadian establishment, including the leading lights of the Liberals, are concerned with this potential check to power. They are concerned that separatists, for example, have an accessible means to assert their will in the event that Quebec, or the West, God forbid, ever decide to leave. An armed citizenry are a check to military enforcement of an illegitimate government.

When the west wakes up and comes to its senses, unrestricted private ownership of firearms is the only thing that will defend our rights to separation. And your Liberal friends know this.

Vive la Ouest Libre.