Friday, December 7, 2012

A Law And Order Government That Loves Guns - Part 2

The post I wrote yesterday elicited a rather spirited and passionate response from one of its readers. Since I promised a reply to Anonymous after reading the links he provided, I thought I would base today's contribution on his observations.

First, one of the points Anon made (I will reproduce his entire commentary in a moment) turned out to be largely correct. He asserted that the Harper government would not loosen the gun laws based on the committee recommendations. As reported in The Globe, in a link provided by Anon, the Prime Minister, in a rare move that bespeaks common sense over partisan priorities, has firmly stated that prohibited weapons such as the Ak-47 assault weapon will not be reclassified as 'restricted,' something that would have made them much more readily available.

What follows is the exchange Anon and I had over my original post:

Do you even understand what any of the above terminology actually means?

Do you not realize that these recommendations were made in March? How long do you think that the Toronto Star has been sitting on this non-story? Any particular reason that they maybe chose today to print this?

To which I responded:

I believe I understand both the terminology and the implications of the Harper thrust to appeal almost exclusively to its constituency, Anon.

As to why The Star chose to print the story today, I would think the answer is obvious: to show the absolute hypocrisy of a government that claims to be hard on crime while at the same time making it easier to acquire and maintain the weapons that would facilitate crime.

I hope I have answered your questions to your satisfaction.

Anon replied:

Not even close. The government is probably finished with firearms. The only recommendations that might be examined is the merging ATT's with licenses, if only because it won't cost the government much. There's the merger of the POL and PAL, which you don't mention. Beyond that...

It's unlikely that the government would choose to reclassify prohibited weapons as restricted. At best, the government could remove the OiC prohibitions on named weapons like the AK-47, or more likely it's semi-auto only equivalent. The tories aren't stupid enough to change automatics as an class from prohibited to restricted. At best, the civilian variant of the AK, semi-auto only could be taken off the prohibited-by-name list. Consider: It's not an AK, it's a CZ-858. It LOOKS a bit like an AK. It's in the same caliber as the AK. It has roughly equivalent capabilites as a semi-auto only AK. That firearm is non-restricted. This is a Saiga semi-automatic rifle: Same caliber as the CZ-858. Basically the same capabilities as the CZ-858. It's prohibited because it's an AK "variant." What kind of sense does this make, and what does it do for Canadians?

You obviously don't know what an authorization to transport is. An authorization to transport is a piece of paper issued by a provincial CFO which allows the owner of a restricted firearm to transport their trigger-locked, unloaded and encased firearm to a shooting range, and home again, by the shortest possible route, making no stops in between. Presently, an authorization to transport must be obtained separately to being licensed. It's a needless duplication of paperwork, and does nothing to enhance public safety. I don't see how that would stop the police one iota from laying criminal charges upon an offending individual whether or not the ATT was separate.

Fourth, allowing police forces to sell firearms to the public. The sales of siezed firearms used to be a significant contributor to police budgets. Since C-68, the police have had to make do without that income, further increasing the strain on municipal and provincial budgets, with no effect on public safety. Finally, making firearms licenses last 10 years does not in fact strip the RCMP of its ability to stop licenses, "the form must be verified by another person."

That's an outright lie. This is the actual form that an individual must fill out to renew their firearms license: (THIS WAS A LINK I WAS UNABLE TO CONNECT TO) Note that there is no section for verrification by a third party, except a person's spouse, or former spouse. They are only expected to declare that they are aware of the applicant's application for renewal not verrify its authenticity.

As to why the Star chose to publish such an obviously loaded article today, it's clearly to spread irrational fear and provoke knee-jerk reactions among those who share your political bias. And, you fell for it. Why wouldn't the Star publish this in say, June, or August? They did it quite deliberately.

The Star's piece has had the opposite of its intended effect, as several members of the so-called gun-lobby wouldn't actually know about the recommendations if the Star had just kept quiet. In fact, I have personally witnessed several people announce that they'll be making donations to the CPC in direct response to the committee's recommendations, even if the government does nothing.

When is your side ever going to learn that in order to win this particular fight, it must either become educated about firearms, and how they are regulated in Canada, OR, it must learn to keep quiet when it comes to guns, because ignorance, and blatant pandering are just going to keep fueling your enemy's coffers?

While I appreciate the passion and the research that Anon put into his response, his interpretation of the data differs from my own in some fundamental ways. For example, I see even the possibility of a reclassification of the weapons he describes a cause for grave concern, since those weapons serve only one primary purpose, in my mind (an assertion that Anon would likely disagree with).

As well, the sale of seized weaponry may make economic sense, as Anon points out, but from my perspective, anything that facilitates the circulation of guns comes at too high a potential cost to society.

Also, I heartily disagree with his contention that 'my side' unless we have done copious research 'must learn to keep quiet when it comes to guns ... because ignorance, and blatant pandering are just going to keep fueling your enemy's coffers.' Nor do I fault The Star for printing the story. In a democratic and pluralistic society, debate is the one of our key rights and responsibilities. Indeed, what may strike one person as asinine may strike another as perceptive and informed. Hopefully, some new knowledge might ultimately be achieved through the clash of viewpoints.

Left unaddressed in Anon's commentary is a disturbing fact that, according to The Globe article to which he directed me, may be soon rectified. Despite pleas from law enforcement and victims of gun crime for representation, the firearms committee is dominated by sport shooting enthusiasts and those opposed to gun control. Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae suggested that the committee

needed wider representation, including from police chiefs, those fighting domestic violence and groups dealing with suicide prevention, Mr. Harper all but agreed.

Had The Star not run the story, I am dubious as to whether Stephen Harper would have been so receptive to the suggestion.

A testy exchange between Anon and me? Yes. But the fact that we have a fundamental and deep philosophical disagreement neither disturbs nor upsets me, one of the reasons being that unlike so much right-wing commentary that relies on bluster, bullying and empty rhetoric (and I am sure Anon would accuse his ideological opponents of the same shortcomings), Anon made a sincere attempt to support his point of view with documentation. Even though I was unable to get all of the links to function properly, I do appreciate the effort that he made.

It is to state the obvious that we live in extremely polarized times, times when the strategy of many is to simply shout down their opponents. I think the information provided by Anon in our exchange amply demonstrates the possibility of something more productive.


  1. Anon is obviously informed on the subject of firearms. I would like to have seen him address the urban/rural divide on this issue.

    In rural Ontario, my neighbours see guns as tools and -- for the most part -- they treat them with respect. In places like Toronto and Montreal -- and I've lived in both cities -- I'm not sure people share the same attitudes towards firearms.

    1. I'm a transplanted Vancouverite now in rural Ontario, I was raised to see them as tools. And now I pass that on to my children and my wife.

      Really as an owner, I just want to be left alone. I'm sick of politicians of all parties using my hobby to either bribe me or bludgeon me.

  2. An excellent point of distinction, Owen.

  3. At a time when the giving up of personal information and behavioural routine, even that of ordinary law abiding gun owners, is the price to pay, for access to much of the internet, its ironic that such an effort is made, to justify not having a gun registry. Anon, without realizing it, has probably, given away more private information about himself and family, to people who will use it against his own best wishes, perhaps misprepresent his very name, and all the while making money by selling it to others, he has no control over. Indeed, even the political party he supports, probably knows more about him, his wife and children, than what he would be comfortable with. And if he owns a gun, well the CPC, if it didn't know, could probaly find out what type.

    Truth be told Anon, you have given away your privacy by simply commenting on this sight. Your gun support, identifies you as an owner, and IP address tells people where they can find you. That is information about you, that will never dissapear. Information, supplied by you, and no one even asked.

    Perhaps, your paranoia is misplaced.

    The long gun registry is dead, long live the NEW GUN REGISTRY!.

  4. First, concerning the RCMP's PDF. This is the page in question, the PDF is linked in the bold text.

    "I see even the possibility of a reclassification... ...(an assertion that Anon would likely disagree with)."

    Really? I do disagree. Warning, the following link contains a photo of a dead deer.

    The firearm in that photo is a KEL-TEC RFB. It's a bullpup semi-auto rifle in .308 Winchester, which is generally safe to interchange with 7.62x51mm NATO - the cartridge dimensions are idential. In any case, the RFB has a fairly intimidating appearance, especially compared with a bolt-action "hunting rifle." Yet, here it's used for hunting deer.

    The KEL-TEC RFB is non-restricted in Canada, meaning it's perfectly legal to use for hunting. So is the IWI Tavor:

    The Steyr Aug on the other hand, is prohibited by OiC:

    Note that in all cases, the fully automatic equivalents of these firearms would remain prohibited in Canada, the committee only recommended getting rid of the OiC lists for the semi-auto civilian variants, NOT fully-automatic capable assault rifles. Tony Bernardo said so himself on Power & Politics. The overall point is that it's a little silly to prohibit the Steyr Aug while allowing say, the IWI Tavor. These firearms are the same configuration, the same capabilities, and even the same caliber, .223 Remmington, safe to interchange with 5.56x45mm NATO, again, same cartridge dimensions.

    The point here, is that attempting to determine intent through the subjective criteria of the cosmetic appearance of a firearm is not an appropriate way to implement the law. Lorne associates the firearms above as having but one purpose, compare them to the Mini-14: Again, same caliber, semi-automatic action, AND as you'll note the Mini-14 was the firearm used in the Montreal Massacre. All remain non-restricted in Canada.

    Purpose or intent, is imbued by the user at the time of use, not by design choice. While certain designs do lend themselves more readily to certain purposes, that should not be used as a criteria in law because purpose is always ultimately up to the user, not the desinger.

    "As well, the sale of seized weaponry may make economic sense, as Anon points out, but from my perspective, anything that facilitates the circulation of guns comes at too high a potential cost to society."

    Okay. My question to you is, how much are you willing to spend before the financial cost of an ideological policy becomes too much bear to offset the potential gain in public safety? What is the dollar value that the political left is willing to spend? Three, four billion? More?

    I will consider other comments in a further comment - Blogger's character limit is ~4000 per comment - which isn't enough to be informative IMHO.

  5. Thank you for the information, Anon. I shall check out the links you have provided.

  6. "I heartily disagree with his contention that 'my side' unless we have done copious research"

    Let's be fair. Copious research probably isn't necessary - I'm by no means an expert. I feel strongly that the opposition can be much more effective. That's very difficult to do when the opposition seems only capable of parroting the articles of the Toronto Star and letting your imaginations run wild thanks to an ideological opposition to the Conservatives. I do understands that you have a different point of view on government. I happen to like differing points of view, my concern is that the opposition would be far more effective if it was grounded in reality. That Harper would implement the recommendations without consideration for the political fallout is absurd. It speaks volumes to what you'd be willing to believe about Stephen Harper - and namely that you don't give much consideration to the objective facts. This is how I could be virtually certain that Harper would not act on the recommendations while you argued for the most negative possible scenario. That's regardless of whether or not it came up in the Star, or in Question Period. Firearms, are at best, a boutique issue in the Canadian political discussion. They're simply too small a hill to be worth the political risk.

    As a firearms owner, it would be awfully nice for Canadian gun control to be more moderate than it is at present. As someone who tries very hard to cling to the truth, that's simply not going to happen any time soon. There are simply too many people in Canada who don't understand firearms, nor do they understand our existing gun control.

    The general reaction to the Star's piece on the Progressive Bloggers is indicative that the left, for the most part, is operating out of a position of wilful and deliberate ignorance, probably borne out of ideology. It harms you not at all to get and to understand the facts - actually, it would strengthen your position by being able to sell your solutions to those who are currently fueling the Conservatives: gun owners in this case.

    All that being said, I very much WANT to talk about Canadian gun control with the left. I find mostly that I CAN'T. Every time it's mentioned, the left falls back on anti-Americanism - over and over again. "Just look at the United States! We could be like that if we loosen gun control!"

    Afterall, I had to explain the reality of an Authorization to Transport. I certainly have no objection to providing the information, and I'm quite thankful that you seem to have actually read what I said. So far, you have been the exception, in willingness to LOOK, and LEARN, more than the rule. The rule has thus far been that the left almost without exception looks the other way.

    Concerning the United States, as you know, it is a very diverse country, and laws are quite variable between cities, states, and even at the federal level. This isn't necessarily a pro, or anti American position, it's a simple statement of fact. Even the so-called American "gun-culture" is NOT monolithic. There's quite a diversity of opinion amongst American gun owners - even within the NRA its self. And this isn't an argument to suggest that we should adopt American solutions to Canadian problems. This line of argument, is to argue that Canadian problems cannot be solved and should not be solved by mindlessly repeating talking points which are all too frequently bereft of both facts, and critical thought. The firearms act is a very broad piece of legislation, and ANY changes to it ALWAYS encounter considerable opposition, debate, and consideration. Indeed, we're STILL not done with the LGR, and we're not going to be done with it for some time yet. I told gun owners that when C-19 passed, we weren't finished, and that sooner or later, it would go before the Supreme court. I'm more convinced of that today than I was then.

    Further comments to follow.

  7. "Had The Star not run the story, I am dubious as to whether Stephen Harper would have been so receptive to the suggestion."

    As I argued previously, I honestly think that Stephen Harper is simply not willing to stake his political legacy on the issue of firearms in Canada. It's just not important enough.

    "so much right-wing commentary that relies on bluster, bullying and empty rhetoric"

    I did go off on the left previously, didn't I? To be fair, the right has its ideological blind-spots, however, I find that the specific location of those blind-spots lies in the individual commentator. The same applies to the left, though I would suggest that the left has become increasingly monolithic, but that could be my perception.

    In any case, what is refreshing, and important here, is that we both try to treat our blindspots with facts, when they're pointed out. Trying matters.

    Concerning rural/urban divide. There's a lot to cover. I'm reasonably well-informed on this issue, but perhaps you could be more specific?

    Stig - What are you on about? Do you honestly think that I don't feel scrutiny in everything I do? I'm quite well aware how easy it is to find who I am, and what I own. For the most part, I try to exercise some caution, but ultimately, I know just how futile it is. So, what's your point exactly? Or do you honestly think that the issue behind the gun registry can be distilled down to just paranoia?

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    1. "That Harper would implement the recommendations without consideration for the political fallout is absurd. It speaks volumes to what you'd be willing to believe about Stephen Harper - and namely that you don't give much consideration to the objective facts."

      I have written about the sad fact of a deep polarization of politics and debate in Canada on this blog, Anon, and your assertion that those who oppose Harper are willing to always believe the worst about him is absolutely correct; I think it is largely due to that polarization, for which our 'political leaders' must bear a good portion of the blame. Sound bites and stereotypical characterization have, sadly, replaced reasoned discussion. While party leaders of all persuasions engage in this behaviour, Mr. Harper, I think, must be singled out as bearing a great deal of responsibility for this. As the Prime Minister, he sets the tone of his government, and it is a tone that has resulted in disdain for empirical date (witness, for example, the hoops government scientists must jump through as they seek permission to speak about their findings)and opposing viewpoints.

      Since I believe the government both reflects the people but also influences the people, it seems inevitable that the tone described above will affect the citizens and their political discourse. For that, we are all the poorer.

  9. I also disagree with the idea seized firearms can't be auctioned off. After all, most of them are not seized because they were a prohibited weapon but for other reasons.
    I am, of course, assuming the police would be careful not to sell them to people who didn't have proper permits.
    This means the same people who buy them would have been able to buy them from any regular dealer anyhow. The purchasers would most likely be legal gun dealers instead of the general public anyhow, so the sales wouldn't be doing anything except saving money.

    My only concern would be the police might succumb to the profits become too eager to confiscate.

  10. If we're going to go that route then the military should be able to auction off all the High Powers and any other firearm that is already either restricted or non-restricted. Many owners would jump at the chance to own a small piece of history and it's extra revenue for the Federal government.