A fear of responsible gun ownership

Morley Lymburner
September 30, 2010
By Morley Lymburner
“Deception is an arrangement of light and dark... chiaroscuro... The people must be made to see white where there is black when this is necessary to the progress of the revolution...” German communist leader Willi Munzenberg made this remark on artistic style to Lenin in 1917 as they were heading to Moscow by rail to begin the Russian revolution. The basic concept is still employed worldwide by many who seek to invoke their will on the masses. Very few issues have polarized so many Canadians as much as the great firearms registry debate. It has pitted east against west, rural against urban, rich against poor and police against public. It has framed liberal and conservative politics ruled by people only too happy to take many down murky roads of understanding where white and black are not easily identified.

“Deception is an arrangement of light and dark... chiaroscuro... The people must be made to see white where there is black when this is necessary to the progress of the revolution...”

German communist leader Willi Munzenberg made this remark on artistic style to Lenin in 1917 as they were heading to Moscow by rail to begin the Russian revolution. The basic concept is still employed worldwide by many who seek to invoke their will on the masses.

Very few issues have polarized so many Canadians as much as the great firearms registry debate. It has pitted east against west, rural against urban, rich against poor and police against public. It has framed liberal and conservative politics ruled by people only too happy to take many down murky roads of understanding where white and black are not easily identified.

As in many issues that have become political, I have attempted to keep this magazine as neutral as possible, however there are times when events overtake neutrality and force us into a corner.

My opinion (mine alone) is that the firearms registry has never worked as a tool for police nor as a method to reduce crime and violence. Neither has it been a tool of taxation, an attempt to disarm the citizenry or a police power grab to create a sinister dark oligarchy. If people take off the various rosy and dark glasses provided by political hacks and self-interest groups, the reality becomes a little more clear.

The registry is about responsible ownership. Gun owners who say they are law abiding citizens yet break the law by not registering them are trying to suck and blow at the same time. A responsible owner surely wants to demonstrate that responsibility, not for the sake of police or politicians but for family, neighbours and community.

If I live next door to a person who enjoys his firearms collection yet rails against laws designed to make him responsible for possessing them, what does that tell me about the security of my household? A neighbour who can convince me that he is abiding by proper rules of safety and laws regarding firearm ownership has my confidence.

This is exemplified through Blue Line Magazine’s firearms editor, Dave Brown, who states that he enjoys firearms and collecting so much he has no problem taking the extra effort to register them and abide by all the laws that go along with that.

Most of us similarly enjoy cars and have no problem with far more extensive rules – testing, regulations, licensing, and higher fees than the firearms registry. Going through these processes indicates responsible ownership and demonstrates this to our neigbours and communities.

We are all aware of individuals who cut corners, failing to get insurance, registering change of ownership, letting their vehicles become unsafe and drinking and driving. Every responsible citizen would look upon most of this as being irresponsible.

Firearm lobby groups and some politicians demand no registration for rifles and shotguns. They have no issue with owners being licenced to possess a firearm, nor being screened and tested by police to purchase them – but want to keep private the models, number of guns and serial numbers that they own. It defeats my understanding of what’s rational.

Police chiefs say their officers often access the firearms registry and that it has made them safer and, in some ways, saved lives. They have somehow confused the purpose of the registry and seem to think evidence of extensive use is a good thing. In most police training officers are encouraged to use their authority with discretion and restraint. The old adage, “if you abuse it, you lose it,” sums this up quite well.

Applying this to the firearms registry, we find an attitude of wholesale usage of information for legitimate or spurious motives. Introducing a police tool with no protocols is asking for trouble. An officer investigating a bicycle theft has no reason to check the registry, yet this happens at many agencies, artificially inflating useage and, by suggestion, validating its existence. The most potentially dangerous scenario is that an officer lets down his guard after finding there are no firearms registered to an address.

The firearms registry went through a considerable crucible of fire. Originally a simple process, it very quickly became a nightmare for registrants and a boondoggle for statisticians wanting information and politicians looking for advantage. Lost in all the ensuing hoopla was the idea of demonstrating responsible gun ownership and encouraging acceptance by keeping to the basics. Name, make, calibre, serial number and address.

The money to build the registry has, rightly or wrongly, already been blown and we must salvage what we can, discarding portions if need be but not the whole thing. That would not be responsible management of money spent. If a house is extravagantly built the wrong way we don’t put it in the dumpster. Even if the structure is unsafe, there is something that can be salvaged. If it is too expensive to maintain then reset it so it will be more economical.

We should at least be able to salvage the values of responsible gun ownership, identify chiaroscuro rhetoric for what it is and look beyond political opportunists and special interest groups.

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