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The Guns are Coming Out Now

April 2011
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I’ll admit that, while the title is a bit more dramatic than the content of today’s blog post, it is catchy.

This morning, Prime Minister Harper stated his party’s plan to eliminate the long gun registry, a program seen as intrusive into the rights of Canadians and a waste of money. He did mention that the previous attempt to do so was a private member’s bill but that it had the support of the party. The Prime Minister also stated that this was the platform of the party since its inception, calling it “wasteful and inefficient” in Welland, ON, today.

I’ve found this to be an interesting issue in Canadian politics. The first reason is the switch of Stephen Harper’s allegiances. When Bill C-68 was introduced, he was a moderate supporter of the legislation, and had been quoted in Hansard as saying on June 12 1995 in the House of Commons, “From my own personal standpoint I believe there are elements of gun control and specifically of this bill that could be helpful.” In Hansard, he stated that he supported the bill on first and second reading based upon a survey of his constituents.  However, a second survey of his constituents between second and third reading of the bill indicated that the mood had changed and he was voting against the bill. His change of heart has received little comment and when you mention it, few people I’ve talked to have either heard of it and some refuse to believe it.

The registry is liable to be an issue here, given our rural location and a large First Nations population, many of whom are subsistence hunters to so degree or another. I’ve heard a number of complaints regarding Larry Bagnell supporting Candice Hoeppner’s private member’s bill to abolish the registry on second reading but voting along party lines on the whipped vote to defeat the bill. Yes, people are visibly and vocally unhappy with his decision. However, all of the people I know who feel this way either vote Conservative anyway or don’t vote at all… half of the latter because they don’t want the government to know where they are.

What we often fail to realize (and yes, I’m not a big fan of polls with a small sample size) is that, during the voting on Hoeppner’s bill, the National Post reported that 66% of Canadians supported retaining the long gun registry. Only one province, Alberta, had more support for abolishing it than retaining it. The poll did not include representation from the North, but why would you expect it to? The Statistics Canada October 2009 population estimates put the total population of the three northern territories at 109,642. There are more than 33 million people in Canada. We have three seats in the House of Commons out of 308, or less than 1%. Given overwhelming support for the gun registry last October, our chances of having anything to say about the matter, to quote Bogart, “don’t amount to a hill of beans in this big world.”

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