CANADA’S NEWEST GUN CONTROLS
By John A. Gayder
Canada has a new gun control law called The Firearms Act. Previously known as federal Bill C-68, it is now law and will be phased in over a five year timetable. With the passage and enactment of these measures, policing in Canada just became more difficult.
The touchstone event precipitating the most recent call for stricter gun control was the slaughter of fourteen female engineering students by a lone gunman at a Montreal polytechnical college. Following this truly horrific event, some intrinsically wrong conclusions were drawn and improper remedies derived.
Instead of advocating the ability to fight back or harsher punishment for the criminal misuse of firearms, a cry went up to further restrict the rights of honest citizens… the same class of people who were victims in Montreal.
Somehow, instead of leaving gun owners and self defense advocates on the same moral level as the slain women, they were inexplicably linked to the crazed shooter.
Had these women lived to graduate, we would have trusted them to design and construct our roads, elevators, airports, skyscrapers and railways. But according to the anti-gun, anti-self defense camp - no matter how bright and intelligent these slain women were, they could not be trusted with simple mechanical devices designed before the turn of century to defend themselves.
An organization called the Coalition For Gun Control was founded by Ms. Wendy Cukier (pronounced Sook-yay ) and Ms. Heidi Rathjen. The CFCG quickly became the most vocal and influential anti-gun group in Canada.
Following the occurrence of other horrible crimes (not necessarily involving firearms) in Canada, other citizen groups sprang up with the intentions of helping to raise awareness about violence issues and a failing justice system. The initial intent of these groups was to tighten parole, give victims a voice and demand longer sentences for violent acts.
Unfortunately, almost all of these groups had their noble agendas co opted by the CFGC which quickly hijacked them into endorsing gun control measures of the worst kind - those aimed at honest citizens.
Much of the good work done by these anti violence groups is now at risk. Their successful cheerleading for more gun control has lead to an even further imbalance of power between mainstream society and predatory, violent criminals. Further, by declaring legitimate gun owners to be the problem, these groups cut themselves off from a large portion of society which until then supported their efforts on behalf of public safety through reformation of the legal system.
THE NEW LAW:
The new law has 8 pages on increased penalties for criminal misuse of firearms, yet contains 125 pages of complicated rules aimed at law abiding citizens.
Measures contained within the new law:
In it’s infancy bill C-68 was met with spirited but somewhat disorganized resistance. The "gun lobby" in Canada is nowhere near as polished as in America.
Despite this, sufficient pressure was brought to bear upon members of the House of Commons (our equivalent to the U.S. House of Representatives) to make passage of the Bill unlikely. When this became obvious to the Bill’s political chaperones, they imparted closure on further debate, thus forcing a vote.
The Liberal Party then invoked "party discipline" for the final vote of passage. This meant that any Liberal Party Member of Parliament who dared to vote against the Bill, regardless of the wishes of their constituents, would be stripped of their perk filled committee positions and be refused re nomination in the next general election. With its parliamentary majority the Liberals were able to pass the Bill.
The use of Parliamentary procedures in this fashion and the draconian nature of the new gun law itself left many Canadians with serious concerns as to just how democratic our current government really is.
A few Provincial (State) Legislatures led by Alberta have joined together in a Court of Appeals challenge against the new law. They argue the law violates the absolute jurisdiction guaranteed the Provinces in The British North America Act over areas involving property rights, civil rights and licensing. As of this writing (Jan/Feb ’98) this has not yet been ruled on by the court.
Because of the over regulation involved, many citizens openly talk of disobeying the convoluted new law. There are discussions about stock piling ammunition and techniques for preserving firearms underground. Historically, when a government starts enacting laws that citizens flaunt, a dangerous climate in which all laws (even good ones) are brought into disrepute is created.
POLICE SUPPORT FOR THE FIREARMS ACT:
Police support for the Bill was hyped from the start. Possibly sensing the increased budgets required to administer the new law, the provincial and federal Chief’s organizations loudly and longingly extolled their love for the new law. This support from the management/administrative/ political/bureaucratic side of the badge may have left the public with the impression all street level police supported the new measures as well.
The public was not told many organizations representing front line police officers passed resolutions withdrawing support from the Bill and its main sponsor; the Coalition For Gun Control.
Gun control like the new Canadian Firearms Act, which places more emphasis on the law abiding rather than on criminals, forces police to break trust with the public they swore to protect from this very same type of oppression. Is there really much difference between a burglar breaking into a citizen’s home to deprive him of guns under the cover of darkness and the police doing so under the cover of a so called "inspection"?
As policemen, we need to ask ourselves; Are the people we have undertaken to protect so savage or infantile in their behavior they cannot be trusted with simple devices like firearms?
If this were true - we could not do the job. Remember, good government, a police force and the courts are all indications of a civilized society - not the cause.
The temptation to succumb to the popular notion that society is nothing more than a collection of creeps and troublemakers is strong for those in policing. This is because our job frequently brings us into contact with the least desirable forms of behavior. We continually see humankind at its worst.
But we must never lose sight of the fact that for every one home we go to in which somebody has committed a crime, we pass literally thousands of homes in which the people are working hard and raising families in a good and peaceful fashion. The vast majority of the people will never have any negative contact with the police. Those people are the reason we do our job.
Canada was once a country to which escaped American slaves fled for freedom. Today, Asian refugees are known to enter Canada only as a rest stop before sneaking the opposite way across the border to partake in the promise of freedom found in America.
Any student of political science wanting to finally conclude the age old argument as to which of the two rival systems involved in the American Revolution would provide better long term protection of its citizens' liberties need only look at recent gun laws instituted in Australia, Britain and Canada. The promises of protection of both property and civil rights, of "peace, order and good government" guaranteed by the monarchy and parliamentary system have proven to be false.
George Washington was correct when he told a British visitor to Mount Vernon that although England was indeed the cradle of free principles, it was unlikely to be their armchair.
Western tradition holds that laws must only be enacted in order to safeguard people’s rights, not diminish them. It is now up to each member of the Canadian law enforcement community to decide what to do when asked to uphold law which is clearly in contradiction to that principle.
Biography of the author and disclaimer: (See attached Curriculum Vitae for additional info)
The author has been a Constable for eight years with the Niagara Parks Police in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The views expressed in this article may or may not represent the official position of his employer.