Political parties, leaders and governments propose a variety of policy initiatives. Some never get past the planning stage and others are passed into law. And some are policy-oriented disasters that stand out due to political miscalculations, economic mishaps and poor communication strategies.
One of the most memorable was the federal Liberals’ Canadian Firearms Registry, or long-gun registry, introduced in 1993. It was supposed to account for all guns in this country, and make our communities safer and more secure. But it contained a major flaw: only law-abiding citizens would ever willingly register their weapons, while criminals weren’t part of the equation.
The long-gun registry was only supposed to cost taxpayers about $2 million, with registration fees used to cover expenses. The final tally ended up at over $2 billion due to massive cost overruns and multiple government inefficiencies.
Canadians from all walks of life gradually began to realize the obvious: the long-gun registry was a multibillion-dollar boondoggle and had to be terminated. That’s just what the Conservative government did in 2012.
The political lesson from this episode was that no future federal government – Liberal, Tory or otherwise – should ever propose anything like this again. And that brings us to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is ignoring history (as usual) and doing something remarkably similar to the long-gun registry.
Trudeau’s Liberal government plans to introduce Bill C-71, which would establish background checks into a firearms licence applicant’s entire history. This could include identification of previous criminal records and any history with mental health issues.
Businesses must also keep extensive records of firearm purchases (and purchasers) for two decades and anyone selling a non-restricted firearm like a long gun must verify that the recipient has a valid licence.
Tory MP Rachael Harder recently told the media that Bill C-71 “brings back the useless and ineffective long-gun registry.” An e-petition, with more than 72,000 signatures as of April 30, seems to show a growing number of Canadians agree with her.
They’re right. It may not be a carbon copy of the Canadian Firearms Registry but it’s pretty close to the type of Big Government that turned off so many Canadians for decades.
I’ve never owned a gun – although I’ve fired one on a couple of occasions. But even before I went to a firing range, I’ve always believed the responsibility of owning a gun belongs to the individual and not the state.
I’ve met gun owners in Canada and the U.S. They’re decent, honourable and conventional-thinking people. They believe in law and order, the safety and security of liberal democracies, the importance of protecting families and a person’s freedom to own a gun, if he or she so chooses.
In other words, I support gun rights and not gun control.
Unfortunately, the large swaths of gun control advocates are always on the lookout for the next opportunity to push their agenda of government interference in our daily lives. Even though we’ve had handgun registration since 1934 and our criminal background checks for firearms purchases are very restrictive, this won’t stop their insatiable appetite to restrict our freedoms.
Going after law-abiding citizens, including duck hunters and gun collectors, is a meaningless strategy, however. The real problem lies with violent criminals, gangs and the illegal black market. That’s who the government should be targeting.
Instead, the government is focused on dividing urban and rural voters, and Eastern and Western Canadians. If cost overruns follow suit with Bill C-71, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility, this government will be in big trouble in next year’s federal election, providing the Tories with a huge political advantage.
Do they care? Not in the slightest. Policy-oriented disasters are Trudeau’s speciality, after all.
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.