In Canada, possession of firearms is heavily regulated through Possession and Acquisition Licenses (PAL), along with additional authorizations and registration certificates for “prohibited” or “restricted” firearms.
The Liberal government’s last legislative proposal on firearms, Bill C-71, was furiously opposed by everyday Canadians, representatives of indigenous and First Nations groups, gun retailers and the firearm industry, and shooting sports and firearm associations, on the basis that the legislation was nothing more than “feel good” amendments that would burden law-abiding gun owners without doing anything to address the real problems caused by gangs, illegal guns, and criminals. Despite this, the bill was passed and received Royal Assent last year.
In the lead-up to last fall’s federal election, the Liberal Party campaigned on promises of “stronger gun control” – specifically, bans on “military-style assault weapons,” granting local governments the power to ban handguns, and of course, even more legislative restrictions.
In a post-election “mandate letter” last December to Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined his legislative and regulatory priorities. At the top of the list are “amend[ing] Canada’s firearms laws to ban all military-style assault rifles, with an associated buyback program and two-year amnesty,” and “work[ing] with provinces and territories to give municipalities the ability to further restrict or ban handguns.”
Earlier this month, Mr. Blair confirmed Trudeau’s gun control agenda, noting that a ban on sales of “assault weapons” will be introduced as a first step, with a mandatory confiscation program (incorrectly called a “buyback”) to follow, with criminal penalties for noncompliance and the unauthorized possession of any prohibited weapon.
All Canadians have cause for concern. For starters, the price tag that was floated around during the election for this new government confiscation program was CAD$250 million, although one commentator explains that realistically, the actual costs to Canada’s taxpayers will comfortably exceed CAD$600 million. After all, as he points out, the Liberals’ previous great gun control experiment, the failed firearm registry repealed by the Conservative government in 2012, was “predicted to cost no more than $2 million and ended up costing $2.7 billion.”
Even more shocking, there was no documented public safety benefit associated with the registry. It did not track unregistered or illegal guns. There is no evidence it had any effect on reducing homicides overall or spousal murders in particular, and it did not contribute to solving a single murder. All the registry did was create a pointless government bureaucracy that sucked up taxpayer dollars along with valuable law enforcement and administrative resources that could have been allocated to better use.
Back in 2010, Justin Trudeau, then a Liberal MP, was interviewed on Parliament Hill by constituents who raised concerns regarding the same registry. Mr. Trudeau can be heard confidently advising these citizens that “the gun registry saves lives” and “it’s a piece of a large puzzle that counteracts crime” (at 1:30 and 1:51, respectively), and that “I believe in guns” (0:27). The most staggering whopper of them all, though, is his assertion that their fear of registration as the first step towards government confiscation of firearms is groundless. “That’s never going to happen,” he says at the 2:07 mark, “because here in Canada we have a culture that has grown up with guns and respects the need to go out into the wilderness and shoot things from time to time.”
Canada’s gun owners are now being asked to believe that fair dealing and respect for property rights are the hallmarks of Mr. Trudeau’s new gun policy. Mr. Blair advises that the government is “very mindful we are dealing with law-abiding Canadians and I want to make sure they are treated fairly and respectfully… I have nothing but respect for those who have been adhering to [the existing gun regulations].”
America’s gun owners are used to hearing the authenticity-challenged flim-flammery that their opposition to government gun registration is misplaced and foolish, because these registries would never be used to confiscate their property (here, here, and here, for example).
The truth, though – to borrow the language of the eloquent Prime Minister – is that that particular dog won’t “go out into the wilderness and shoot things from time to time.”