Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Vote your conscience on the gun registry

While this may surprise some of my more jaded readers, I do generally try to maintain a certain degree of ideological and logical consistency in my opinions and writings. And I’ve been having a hard time squaring that on the gun registry issue.

It’s not a deeply-held or hot-button issue for me, but were I to be asked to cast a ballot I would vote to repeal the registry on long-guns, keeping it in place for hand guns and assault rifles. All of our opinions are coloured by our environment and experiences, and my view on this issue is influenced by my upbringing in rural, or at least non-urban Canada, where rifles are viewed and used much differently than in urban Canada. I just don’t think it’s necessary for long-guns.

We’ve debated the registry in this space before; I won’t rehash all the arguments pro and con.

What I do want to say is that there are very good arguments to be made on either side and it’s not a black and white issue, at least for me, but I find it very disappointing that its seemingly impossible to debate this issue without it degenerating into hyperbole, name-calling and insults.

The Conservatives, of course have no interest in a debate on the merits. This is just politics and positioning for them, not policy, but that’s nothing new. Within our own camp though, I see many urban Liberals quick to demonize and dismiss those with another perspective, not willing to even consider their views. You’re with them or you’re wrong, and you’re bad for being wrong, seems to be the view.

That’s unfortunate, and it speaks not only to the urban/rural divide that our party still struggles with, but to a deeper cultural and attitudinal divide that will make it even tougher to bridge those worlds. Because make no mistake, opposition to the gun registry may be a minority of caucus, but it is a substantially-held view in our membership and supporter-base across the country and callously dismissing their views as unwelcome, unworthy and stupid is arrogant and far from helpful.

Let the debate on this issue happen on its merits, let MPs vote their conscious and the will of their constituents, and let the chips fall where they may.

Back to ideological consistency though. I’ve had a hard time squaring my views on the registry with my views on same-sex marriage rights. It’s a similar ideological issue for many Liberals, and I’ve been of the view that this is a rights issue that speaks to the core values of Liberalism, and if you’re not going to support such a core issue you may be in the wrong party.

So my logical consistency radar buzzed here when I argue for free debate on the registry but draw a line on SSM. How do I square it? Well, I can argue that there’s a rights and freedom issue, on both issues I’m arguing for greater rights. I could argue SSM is a more fundamental issues, but for many the registry is just as fundamental.

So I guess I’ll have to live with the inconsistency, if just this once.

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calgarygrit said...

It would be a rights issue if the vote was on banning guns in Canada. (even then, since many guns are banned already, it would be debatable)

The registry is asking for 10 minutes and 12$ a year from gun owners. There's an argument that it's innefective and a money loser, but I just don't understand how this one could be compared to SSM or any sort of rights issue.

Robert McClelland said...

Why would you keep the hand gun registry in place?

The Rat said...

It's $12/year - per gun. A lot of us gun crazy rednecks have more than one. And I thought it was $25/year. I own, hmm 1,2,3,4...9, yup 9 firearms which would be $175 a year. And a surprising number of people own more than me. At $12 or $25 it doesn't sound like much until you add it up, and until you realize that many guns are worth less than $300. As a percentage of value and as an amount of cash each year, it is punitive.

Geekwad said...

I can't see how to connect these issues. Maybe I'm ignorant on the details, but the existence long gun registry does not prevent anyone from doing anything they could not legally do if it did not exist, unless you cut your hairs very finely indeed. You can do the same things in either case, the difference with the registry-exists case is that you just have to tell someone you're doing it.

On the other hand, the SSM issue does very much impact upon what Canadians may or may not do.

Personally, I think it's very much my business to know whether my neighbours keep explosives and guns. But the registry doesn't even go that far, I think it's completely private.

Jay said...

Great. With the help of some liberal MP's the Harper government will be able to threaten voters next time around that a vote for liberals is a vote to bring back the long gun registry.

What does this party stand for anymore? I see an empty rusting hull.

This is one situation where the liberals can stop the registry from being repealed and it seems the leader has no desire but honestly i think its no ability to control his caucus.

I'm nearly done as a member. What am I even a member of?

Jason Cherniak said...

The only thing I'll never understand about those who hold your view, Jeff, is that we already register just about everything in this world.

Whether cars, houses, warranties for new appliances (not government, but still), newborn babies or guns, registration is just a part of life.

On a more principled point, though, what kinds of guns do you think Robert Pickton owned?

Loraine Lamontagne said...

If Liberals are not whipped to vote against, this issue will go on to the next steps, i.e., it will hanging over the Liberals' head and dividing the caucus for months. May as well act now and whip it - even if you lose a few.

Jeff said...

dan, the only connection was as I tried to square in my mind why I support whipping SSM but think the registry should be a free vote. In the end, I decided I just do.

robert, because I think there is a legitimate use argument to be made for rifles (hunting, wildlife control) that can't be made for handguns. I don't feel there's a real legitimate use for handguns and, while I won't go as far as banning them, I think there's a stronger case there for a registry.

rat, I think the Cons stopped collecting the fees years ago. Maybe a register 3, get the 4th free would be an idea though.

jay, you're entitled to your view, but are rural Liberals not also entitled to there's? Why should your view carry the day to the exclusion of there's? Both sides have legitimate opinions and concerns, and dismissing one side out of hand isn't helpful.

jason, according to wikipedia, Pickton has a .22 and a .357, both of which I believe are handguns, and neither of which were registered.

Lorraine, it may be a few MPs but its much of our rural supporters. Do we want to purge all the unbelievers, or do we want to debate this rationally?

Robert McClelland said...

Target shooting is a legitimate argument for hand guns. And the same arguments against the long gun registry (criminals don't register their hand guns, it doesn't prevent crime, etc.) can be used against the hand gun registry.

lance said...

There are 357 and 22 calibre rifles as well Jeff, but I don't know what types of firearms Pickton had.

The Rat said...

"Target shooting is a legitimate argument for hand guns. And the same arguments against the long gun registry (criminals don't register their hand guns, it doesn't prevent crime, etc.) can be used against the hand gun registry."

Yes it can, but it won't have the support of rural farmers and duck hunters because they don't generally own handguns. That's the beauty of dealing with us selfish neo-cons, we only worry about our own.

And the handgun registry has been around since 1934 and the CPC hasn't shown any desire to seize any more handguns, without compensation, like the Liberals did in '95. When you remember that over half of all legally purchased and trustingly registered handguns were made illegal at the stroke of Alan Rock's pen, do you really blame gun owners for being gun shy, as it were?

Saskboy said...

"Jason Cherniak said...

The only thing I'll never understand about those who hold your view, Jeff, is that we already register just about everything in this world. "

As Jeff neatly explained this isn't about a registry anymore, it's about the Liberal Party's desire to be electable outside of Toronto. If you want to be as effective as the Green Party is, in Western Canada, then by all means support a bloated and badly implemented gun registry.