Will Stephen Harper’s War on Peace, Order and Good Government continue with an attack on handgun registration?

Claresholm, Alberta, the site of this country’s latest murderous shooting rampage, not likely to be its last. Below: Prime Minister Stephen Harper in all his divisive faux cowboy glory.

Do not doubt for an instant the inevitability of a great howl of violent protest directed at anyone who dares to connect last week’s murderous shooting rampage near the Alberta town of Claresholm and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s war on gun registration.

But the murderer used a handgun, registration opponents will protest, and the registry was for long guns! Then the debate, if that’s the word, will quickly spin into the usual specious arguments about their property rights and the need for stiffer prison sentences – as if such concepts would make any difference to someone prepared to put the gun to his own and head pull the trigger once his bloody work was done.

In reality, though, the dots between these two points on the Conservative timeline for the Albertanization of Canada are quite close, and can be connected easily – which is why we should expect the Harper government to try to use a promise to end to the registration of handguns in the same way in the next federal election.

The most obvious dot-connector is the fact that, having seen the national rifle and shotgun registry work as an effective wedge issue in 2011, it is doubtful the Harper Conservatives will be able to resist the temptation to do the same thing again in 2015, or whenever they choose to call an election.

Of course, whatever issues they select as wedges will be driven to some degree by circumstance and public opinion at the time of the next vote. And, as much as it pains the gun nuts, it is well known that Canada’s short-gun registration rules and tough controls are popular with urban voters throughout Canada and almost everyone in Quebec.

But then, the Harperites knew that long-gun registration was popular in Canada’s cities, even out here in the feckless West where we vote Tory anyway and complain after the fact. And they certainly knew their plans to wreck the registry caused outright revulsion in Quebec, where the tragic act that led to the registry’s creation took place.

Yet none of this stood for a moment in the path of their compulsion to seek out the lowest common political denominator and drive in the wedge. Since it worked, and apparently unbridled by any ethical considerations, why would they do anything different the next time?

So, it is said here, no matter what denials you hear from your Conservative MP today, a wedge strategy to end the registration of handguns and thus encourage the further descent of Canadian cities into American-style violence (something we know about here in Edmonton, by God), followed by screeches for more ineffective and expensive prisons and more ineffective, expensive and cruel punishments, is even now sure to be percolating deep within the Harperite brain trust.

A second reason these bloody dots are not that far apart is that, as in the United States, despite being a tiny minority, the gun lobby is a powerful fund-raising auxiliary for parties of the far right like the Harper Conservatives.

The feeble radio ad campaign now being run by the Conservative Party won’t change anyone’s position on gun registration. Most of us will just tune it out, or be faintly bemused by the fact that it manages to tell three lies in 30 seconds, a rate of one every 10 seconds, which is unusual even by Harper Conservative standards.

The lies, for those of you who demand justification for such remarks, are:

  1. “The Conservative government has been given a strong mandate from Canadians to scrap it.” No they weren’t. It was hardly on the radar for most voters. Let’s call this one the “Counter-cheque Quarrelsome.”
  2. “Hunters and farmers won’t be treated as criminals anymore.” They never were. They were asked to register their weapons, as we are asked to register our cars. “The Lie Circumstantial.”
  3. “Don’t forget the billions that were wasted on creating and maintaining the registry, money that could be put to better use…” Well, no it can’t, actually. It’s been spent. Let’s call this “the Lie Direct.”

Dishonest though they may be, the ads serve as an effective reminder to Canadian gun nuts that the northern chapter of the Tea Party still needs their contributions to keep looking after their anti-social special interests.

The third reason is that the property rights argument, in the minds of advocates for unregulated gun ownership, applies to handguns as nicely as firearms with longer barrels, and presumably to hand grenades and unexploded roadside bombs as well.

To believe this, you also have to think your fundamental property rights are impinged by regulation of such forms of property as automobiles, which must be registered and licensed by their law-abiding owners, and certain recreational drugs and activities that are banned outright.

This emphasis on property rights, one suspects, originates in the good fortune of Canadians not to have a Second Amendment or its equivalent anywhere in their Constitution, thereby invalidating the argument we have an unabridgeable right to keep and carry arms of any type wherever and whenever we please.

Lacking such a justification, those among the gun advocates who understand that the U.S. Constitution does not apply on this side of the Medicine Line sail toward the only port available in this storm. Mind you, there is nothing in our Canadian Constitution specifically guaranteeing us “property rights” either, but from their perspective at least there is a body of precedent and other law.

As for their call for long prison sentences or other severe punishments as an alternative to sensible regulation and control, this is another effective wedge issue for the Harperites, but it is unlikely to do much to prevent the use of firearms in violent domestic incidents, whether they play themselves out at home or on Alberta’s highways. People like the shooter in last week’s horrific murders are obviously not planning carefully when they snatch up a gun head out on a killing spree.

But at least registration and the controls associated with it, if they are implemented vigorously, might prevent weapons falling into the hands of such a person in the first place – and how did this shooter happen to get his hands on a 9mm handgun? And if they don’t, as is well known, they give the police some knowledge about what they might be dealing with.

Whatever those who insist on their imagined right to own anti-social property may assert, Mr. Harper’s compulsion to use wedge issues like the national shotgun and rifle registry, and his war on our actual Constitutional right to peace, order and good government, will continue until he is driven from office.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

17 Comments on "Will Stephen Harper’s War on Peace, Order and Good Government continue with an attack on handgun registration?"

  1. Neal says:

    Much ado about nothing, since you left out the fact that the Claresholme shooter used his own registered handgun to commit his crime. But don't let the facts get in the way of a good leftist tyrade, right David?

  2. anne wilson says:

    Not so fast there Neal. How the heck was this dangerous weapon registered? Why wouldn't the Harper government use the same successful strategy? The more government and politics looks like the preserve of obsessed gun owners, the more voters stay away.

  3. JimBobby says:

    I think there is a hardcore gun rights posse that wants to go a lot further than simply killing the long gun registry.

    I spend some time following the #cdnpoli tread on Twitter. There are a few very prolific gun registry opponents who seem to be highly influenced by US NRA ideology. The theme that citizens need weapons to protect themselves from their government is starting to get rolled out. The idea that Canadians should be able to carry concealed weapons for the sake of public safety is also being pushed.

    Here's a tweet from one of the busiest anti-registry Twitter users:

    We'd like the Firearms Act & the rest of the #gunregistry gone. We'd like CCW permits too. We want real pub safety

    I had to look up CCW. It's a concealed carry permit.

    I would hope that these tweeps don't represent the majority of gun owners. However, it is the strident fringe that advocated most vociferously for dismantling the LGR. They are invigorated by their victory and are pushing hard to expand upon it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Every Canadian needs the right to bear arms.

  5. Jeff Wedman says:


    Since you're on the business of connecting dots, please show me concrete examples of how registering long guns "saves lives" as is so often purported.

    If you want to lead this issue back into the realm of thoughtful reasoning instead of the hyperbole and misrepresentation that both sides are currently cemented to, make a case for not allowing the private ownership of handguns and leaving long gun owners be.

    Personally, I believe this whole issue needs to be recaged. I see most non-military long guns as a tool, designed for use by farmers and hunters to shoot animals. The current PAL system has sufficient safeguards and is a reasonable imposition for ownership of these tools.

    Pistols however, are a different ball of wax. They are designed to kill other humans, period. The private ownership of functional handguns really serves no legal purposes other than to justify the personal ego of their owners. I see that a ban on private ownership of pistols to not be an undue hardship or imposition on personal property rights. The exception to this could be for competitive target shooters. A Monini 22 cal target pistol does not quite carry the street credibility as a Glock 9mm.

    Many people would like to see (but are not honest enough to say so publicly) the imposition of a complete ban on private ownership of all guns. Making gun ownership a pain in the ass through registration has been an end-run attempt at this. However, the fact of that matter is that in Canada there is a valid reason for a large part of our population to be long gun owners.

    If you really want to make a dent in the use of dangerous weapons and the glorification of them by gangs, stop treating all guns as one in the same.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why do these deluded people believe that owning guns will protect them from da ebul gubbermint?

    Most any government agent shows up (even illegally!) on your property. You hold them off with a gun. When the police you called to deal with the trespasser get there, you get thrown in jail.

    A bunch of drunk police officers show up on your property to commit some crime. You hold them off with a gun. You either get shot dead, or go to jail.

    Now say the government turns evil. They send in the military (perhaps the US military through the agreements Mr. Harper has made with Obama) to suppress their enemies. You shoot at them with your gun. The guys in the tank laugh at your puny efforts. You get shot dead.

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    Just reading some of the comments in favour of weapons is sickening to say the least. The one I liked the most this time is 'Stop treating all guns as one and the same' – what does this mean? Some kill faster than others? What a bunch of garbage.

    As far as the conservatives, they are no longer a party. They are now a cult and getting more refined by the day. If this is the legacy Albertans are going to leave for future Canadians, I will not have any doubts they will hate us more than we hate the NEP.

    As far as the lies in the AD, unfortunately that is generalized in our political life and claiming a stron mandate with 39% of the vote is just the consequence of a voting system that is anti-democratic but somehow loved by pundits and journalist and whoever defends it.

  8. Unknown says:

    I live in a remote area alone, no-one knows at any point in time what is happening at my place. There are unsolved murders within 10 kilometers of my place. I firmly believe it is my right to own hand guns to be used to preserve my life if needed. There is no Government agency in this country that can protect me. Therefore I have to look after myself.

  9. Carlos Beca says:

    Unknown I live in area where 46 homicides have happened within 10 Km because of guns and drugs. I can understand your point of being able to protect yourself but I would like to understand why people in your conditions do not want to register them? Because you are isolated you do not register your cars and your kids as well? I just cannot get it I am sorry. Guns should exist to a minimum and when we have them they should be fully registered.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Jimbobby- it's very naive to think that because millions of us here in Canada support gun rights and ownership that we are influenced by American gun culture. We have always existed.

    But you know what? People like you and Carlos beca created the Canadian Gun Lobby. C-68 pushed us so far so fast that we had no choice to fight back to survive. And I assure you, this is just the beginning. Next will be decriminalization of simple posession of a firearm. Then the lame OICs will be rescinded. ATTs demolished. SAPs for grandfathered prohib owners will be issued, so they can actually take their guns to the range. Magazine limits will be scrapped. This is truly just the beginning. We make elections, we break elections. Ask Mark Holland.

    We just want common sense laws that do not impede on our posession and lawful use of firearms. We do however want stricter penalties for criminal misuse of a firearm.

    The opposition parties will be out in the cold for many years until they realize that when they propose more gun control, they lose.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Your comparison to the registration of automobiles isn't valid. About the only thing that registered cars and registered guns have in common is the word 'registered'. I'll explain.

    Anyone, of any age, can buy and own a car. Any car and any number of cars, of any size or power. Pinto to Porsche, Honda to Hummer. No call to a central database to approve the sale. Nor do they need to have a license to buy or own a car. Nor do any of these cars have to be registered. Only if you are driving on a public road do you need to have it registered. If you let your driver's license expire, the police will not charge you criminally and will not confiscate ALL of your vehicles, as you can no longer legally own them, because that law applies to gun owners.

    You do not have special storage requirements for your car. The gasoline doesn't have to be drained from the tank whenever it is not in use, and stored away from the vehicle.

    Nor do car owners have to worry about having their cars subject to reclassification into restricted and prohibited categories, after the fact, and subject to confiscation. Cars of a certain size will not be banned outright, nor will other cars of a certain horsepower be deemed too powerful. Those which fall in this new category may either be relegated to track use ONLY, or they be determined that they can never be driven by anyone, ever.

    A car with performance identical to another, but if it has certain things which make it look too "racy", it will be banned and can only be driven on the track. Gas tank size would be limited as well to 5 gallons for some of those racy-looking cars, or any car which has an automatic transmission.

    Car owners never have to worry about either the accidental or deliberate killing of large numbers of people, and then having that model of car vilified and banned. Never mind that the person who stole the minivan and drove it into a crowd of pedestrians didn't even have a license, some politicians will want to ban that particular minivan as a symbol to show they are 'doing something', and so that it 'never happens again'. Oh, and the person who did own that stolen minivan? They would face criminal charges for unsafe storage.

    Finally, you do not have to get spousal approval to acquire or renew your driver's license. But that's more of a licensing issue rather than registration, the difference of which I'm sure you're aware.

    Believe me, gun owners would be ECSTATIC if the rules of car registration were applied to guns.

  12. Carlos Beca says:

    Well Anonymous I did not create anything as I am not directly involved in it, but I would consider myself very proud if I had contributed that directly. We live in a democracy and just like you I have the right to have my opinion about guns and gun control. I do know what guns without controls can do and despite the fact that you are so sure how far you are going with the dismantling of whatever laws are bothering you I really doubt you will be as successful as you think you will be. Canadians have a good sense of reality and common sense and most of us do not agree with you. Furthermore, I do not care what the Americans do or do not do, I am not an American and I would never be as I have no interest in their society or objectives and role in the world. They certainly try hard to influence our laws here in Canada and has nothing to do with freedom or any of that, it is simply the big dollar $. It is the only industry they have left and that is why we have an invasion every once in a while as they have to empty their arsenals and continue production.

  13. Carlos Beca says:

    Anonymous you are absolutely right that registering a car is not the same as registering a gun. It is very simple to understand that. A car does not kill people at a distance like a gun does. You do not pick up a car and decide to kill someone with it and do it easily. Honestly this discussion is useless when people like yourself refuse to realize what a gun really is. As far as I am concerned you can have your gun but as a citizen I will for sure be on the side that the gun you own is registered and that registration is thorough and difficult to obtain unless you have a truly valid reason to have it. I know you do not like it for whatever reasons you believe in but I do not like you to be able to use a gun against any citizen at your will either. I do not care whether the gun is long or short or whatever. As far as the excuse that criminals can get them anyway, then there should be an automatic doubling of the sentence if the gun is illegal and not registered. I am sure we will have spaces in the jails Harper is building.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Wow – I think this is a testament to the effectiveness of the gun lobby as I doubt that most of these posters are regular readers of this blog. In any case I feel safer with fewer hand or long guns as it is too easy for the owner (as witnessed by the southern Alberta murder suicide)to use their guns for illegal purposes, or for others to gain access to these. I don't object to farmers and hunters owning long guns, but I do want restrictions on the type, number and characteristics of guns owned. I also want them stored safely and would appreciate even more restrictive legislation and enforcement.

    The argument that more guns will reduce murders is at best delusional as the recent murders and injuries to Congress Woman Gifford occurred in a concealed carry jurisdiction and nobody in the crowd managed to stop the shooter – I imagine if they tried that even more would have been killed or injured.

    The right wing politicos and supporters like to trumpet the call of the silent majority – it is time for the real majority point of view to be listened to.

  15. Carlos Beca says:

    Last Anonymous I agree with you and I do not have a problem people in farms or remote locations owning them as I can understand some of the reasons, but I want them registered. Most Canadians do and I do not mean 39%, I mean 70% and up have said so. The PCs ignore that as usual because we do not know any better.

    By the way I have not been influenced by any lobby. This makes sense to any person with half a pound of brain. Every single country in the so called Western World have tough gun laws with the exception of the US and they have 10 times less crime then the US. The belief that more guns protect us is the brain wash program of the NRA and the US gun manufacturers that cannot wait to fill Canada with the same disease. They could not care less about citizens.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Carlos Beca, you're all over the map. Your irrational fear of guns (as well as your blatant hatred of everything American) is showing. Despite the fact that guns CAN kill at distance, the facts are that guns are used by criminals to murder people only feet away. Essentially rock-throwing distance. And more people agree with me than you – Canadians everywhere have seen what a pointless, expensive, and thoughtless failure the gun registry has been. Without any influence from the US. We have our own little 'gun lobby' here in Canada, we're called Canadians. Your reasons for me not owning a gun are superficially foolish – I could use those same reasons against you for owning a car, a knife or even a pack of matches, as you MIGHT be a danger to others. Don't you realize that cars kill thousands of people each year? And despite the fact that I have fired several hundred thousand rounds in my many guns, not a single person has been harmed. And my experience is the norm, that no one is harmed by the typical gun owner.

  17. Carlos Beca says:

    Anonymous I am all over the map but you still did not get the point. I am not against you owning a gun. I AM AGAINST YOU NOT REGISTERING YOUR GUN. Got it?

    As far as being anti-american is none of your business but I have to remind you that you are anti Canadian, just read your post.

    By the way I do not fear guns, I fear certain people owning guns, that is why a good registratrion system helps.

    Just to conclude, can you show me a poll outside the Edmonton Sun where Canadians agree with you? Please do.


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