It is rare for a monthly publication to make a commentary that may be fresh on the trail of an election. As timely as it may seem, however, the impact of this comment will be small because its subject has become political in nature and no one wants to say out loud what they would prefer to whisper. The Conservatives are wooing the urban vote and the Liberals are wooing the western vote and only passing lip service is given to the gun registry debate.
The gun registry debate 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.
My opinion (mine alone) is that the firearms registry has rarely 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 dark and rosy glasses of 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 and storage 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 neighbours 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 this as being irresponsible.
Firearm lobby groups and some politicians demand no registration for rifles and shotguns. They have no issue with owners being licensed 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 usage 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 political rhetoric for what it is and look beyond political opportunists.