Parsing the Intellectually Challenged Toronto Star.
[Reprinted, with permission, from guncontrolcanada.org]
Convergence is truly a wonderful thing when elements of politics, blatant media bias, and sloppy research come together in a connect-the-dots geewhiz sort of way. A Canadian blogger, Canadian Blue Lemons picked up an obvious and gross pair of errors on the increasingly no-longer-ready-for prime-time Toronto Star. Neal Boortz, a blogger in the U.S., did up a funny on "why liberals write columns and editorials...and suck at talk radio", the lead of which was a Second Amendment sendup on a fictitious radio conversation with a liberal gun-grabber. Canadians familiar with the current firearms debacle in Canada could be forgiven if they thought Neal's sendup was a Canadian story. This could have been written about most all Canadian Liberals and Liberal media hanger's on.
And then along comes the Toronto Star, again. Having been recently chastised for journalistic sloppiness (no, its worse than that), it has the temerity to print the editorial below, concerning the government's intention to extend the registration amnesty for Canadian firearms owners who have unregistered firearms, or who have had registrations revoked due to a lapse of their Possession and Acquisition Licence. There is so much wrong with the content of this editorial, we decided to look at it, paragraph by paragraph.
Editorial: Sneaky gun amnesty
Toronto Star, Apr 12, 2007 04:30 AM
Canada's gun laws are hardly burdensome. Gun owners have to be properly licensed and must register their handguns and "long" guns, such as rifles and shotguns. At the moment, Ottawa is even handing out licence renewals free.
The opening line is raising guffaws from coast to coast. A 2 billion dollar fiasco that isn't, and can't keep track of duck guns, let alone criminal hardware. Costs at least $110 million a year to maintain. Employs some 1200 people. None of this drain on the taxpayer existed 12 years ago, and massage the numbers from Statscan all you want, hasn't altered the statistically insignificant gun-crime landscape in Canada one iota. Hardly burdensome? Because of C-68, firearms owners now are required to pay for and take one or more weekend courses, pony up upwards of $80 for a licence (possession and acquisition licence, or PAL), subject themselves to a litany of charter violations, beg for permission to even take some of their firearms to the range (authorization to transport), keep track and carry with them through swamp and bush, paperwork (registration certificate), without which their property may be seized. My paperwork folder for my 20 odd firearms is 4 inches thick. Even my pre War of 1812 flintlock pistol reproductions are papered, for God's sake. When was the last time a Toronto gangbanger settled a score with a 1730 Queen Anne pistol? Licences are handed out free presently because the Conservatives recognize that the requirement for a renewal every 5 years is just ridiculous. To beat the proverbial dead horse, gangbangers don't have the requirement, because they just skip the licencing thingy.
Even so, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives have never met a gun law they would not like to soften. To that end, they introduced Bill C-21 in Parliament last year to kill the long-gun registry by repealing the requirement to register firearms that are non-restricted, such as hunting rifles and shotguns.
Bill C-21 has not yet been passed, so technically long-gun owners still need to register their guns.
The last part is true. C-21 has not passed, and frankly, most firearms owners hope it never does. There are egregious policy errors in C-21, and while the requirement to register non-restricted firearms ends, the burden of approving transfers falls to the Chief Firearms Officers in the provinces (something that is happening increasingly already). Ergo, registration has merely passed from the Feds to the provinces. This is "softening the gun laws"? This is a political nightmare waiting to happen in McGuinty's Ontario.
Most Canadian gun owners are law-abiding people who have done so. Nearly 2 million Canadians are licensed to own 7 million registered guns. There is 90 per cent compliance with registration.
The 90 percent statistic was generated by McLellan et al, and parroted to no end by Wendy Cukier and her cohorts as a means to sell the program, years ago. Its never been proven, is truly unknowable, and based on the assumption that the Canadian Firearms Centre had estimated the firearms population at a certain low number, had registered 90% of that number, so geewhiz, 90% compliance. Estimates of firearms numbers in Canada run as high as 20 million. There are certainly way more than the 7 million tossed around in the editorial. These stats have never withstood scrutiny. Two million owners would be a very conservative estimate. Practically every gunowner knows someone who has not registered...
But in a spring hunting season gift to gun scofflaws, the Harper Tories have just quietly given a one-year reprieve, until May 16, 2008, to long-gun owners who let their licences expire after Jan. 1, 2004, and have failed to renew them or who have not registered their guns at all.
These gun owners are breaking the law, and police can seize their guns, but the amnesty makes it less likely they would be charged with a crime.
Hmm, scofflaw... a quaint 19th century term for one who laughs or flaunts the law... Hardly describes the typical gun owner who chooses civil disobedience over compliance with an ideologically driven political agenda. Maybe would apply to all those fine upstanding citizens packing heat in Miller's Toronto, but be assured, Canadian firearm's owners are hardly laughing. The amendments to the Criminal Code that accompanied bill C-68 have seen to that. The recent decisions of the Supreme Court that upheld charter protections for alleged terrorists gave that group more rights than firearms owners in Canada presently enjoy.
As to the "gift to spring hunting season", beyond the fact that its pejorative, this statement is just silly. The current amnesty ends in May, 2007. Since the government has the stated intention of ending the registration of non-restricted firearms, it only makes sense to extend the amnesty until such time as it can get the enabling legislation by the opposition ideologues in parliament. The previous Liberal government was not shy about promoting amnesties in order to get guns registered. We don't recall the Star having much to say about those at the time. Selective political bias, er, memory?
The issue of lapsed licences is more serious than might be understood. The Canadian Firearms Center is doing a terrible job processing licence renewals. Stories are plentiful of licencees not receiving their renewals, even after applying months in advance, before they expire. The expiration of the licence carries with it an automatic revocation of certificates registered in the name of the licencee, which carries with it Draconian Criminal Code penalties for those caught in the bureaucratic catch-22. This is clearly abuse of process, and should not be tolerated by any group in a democratic state. These are the stories Canadians normally associate with faraway banana republics. Of course the government has to include these individuals in the amnesty. Its the right thing to do.
This pandering to a minority who flout the law was announced Saturday on page 866 of the little-read Canada Gazette, on Easter Weekend no less, under a title only a lawyer could love: Order Amending the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006). There was no official statement or press release.
Without a doubt, this is one initiative that "Canada's New Government" was not eager to trumpet.
My, could the editorial writer have oozed more sanctimony in a paragraph? "Pandering to a minority..." Odd choice of phrase for a Liberal mouthpiece paper. The Liberal party's entire modus operandum is about "pandering to minorities" - all kinds of them . They even built the constitution around "pandering to minorities". Caledonia is "pandering to a minority". Creating amnesties for individuals caught up in a bureaucratic morass when the stated intention of the government is to scrap ill-conceived legislation and policy is good governance, not "pandering". Curious that the Star sees the Conservative's acknowledging an inappropriate weight of government on a constituency as pandering, whereas, the Liberal support of the Coalition for Gun Control and its ideologues within and without the party, was not.
It may come as a surprise to the editors of the Star, or maybe this is just more pissy left MSM whining a la Parliamentary Press Gallery, but the government doesn't have an obligation to issue press releases just so the Star can keep up. Announcing legislative intent is precisely what the Canada Gazette is for. Publication in the Canada Gazette is the official statement. Just because the Star is too lazy to do research is hardly the fault of the government. The news of the pending amnesty extension was all over the internet by the end of the Easter weekend. What, did the Star have to read about it on a blog?
As to the title, what else would you call it? The government needs to make an order to amend an existing order, so the title is an "order amending the order...". Too hard for the Star's editorial brain trust?
And then there's the grand flourish - "Without a doubt...not eager to trumpet"... Did the writer just have an epiphany? It is Easter, after all. The government just did the arcane task of doing what government bureaucracies are supposed to do - be attentive and respond with appropriate policy at the appropriate time. No fanfare needed. No great public pronouncements like PMPM liked to do. No show over substance. Just governance. Had the writer been a gun owner, and done some research, he would have known that the "scofflaws" had been wanting to know for awhile what the government's intention was on this matter.
Clearly, Harper hopes to kill off the long-gun registry by getting Bill C-21 passed, and does not want to aggravate hunters or any other armed voters in the election that many expect.
As the Liberals discovered in the last election, constituents don't like governments that abuse the public trust or fail to deliver on their promises. At a minimum, the constituency of firearms owners in Canada is at least 2 million or more voters. More than twice as many as exist in First Nations. For any government to not listen to a constituency of that size, is to ignore the needs and wishes of its citizenry. That the Star editorialists do not fall into that constituency is irrelevant. As firearms owners, we find the the phrase "any other armed voters" to be insulting, demeaning and inappropriate in a national paper, especially from its editorial board. There are no armed voters in Canada, except those of the various police agencies who show up to vote in uniform. Attending a public meeting in Canada, armed, is a violation of the Criminal Code. The allusion was intended to be an insult. Trust us, it was.
Still, the Conservatives' Bill C-21 is misguided, and so is this reprieve. All gun owners and guns should be licensed and registered. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Professional Police Association are strong supporters of a data base.
Guns that are registered and known to police are likelier to be safely stored and disarmed, kept out of criminals' hands, and not "loaned out" to unlicensed people. That makes for safer communities.
A consistent Star characteristic - broad all encompassing statements without substance, supportable argument, or truth. Bill C-21 is misguided, but not for the reasons the Star has been alluding to. The fact that CACP and CPPA are supportive of the registry is pretty much meaningless. Neither has been able to put forward a defensible argument for the maintenance of the registry, based on facts, and neither has the support of a large percentage of the rank and file in this matter. Both organizations exist largely to lobby for consideration and to steer political agendas to the benefit of their members. The greater good is not a significant component of the activities of either organizations. Associations are what they are: promoters of vested interests.
The Star can provide no evidence that registered firearms are "likelier to be safely stored". In fact, the dearth of evidence that registries have any impact whatsoever on the safe use and disposition of firearms is the most telling reason why there is no basis to keep it going. Safe handling and storage of firearms is an educational and cultural matter, not a legal one, best accomplished by the encouragement of training, safe use and respect for the tool that it is, not the constant demonization presented by papers like the Star. The FBI recently confirmed in a study that criminals obtain their firearms by, surprise, criminal activity, not "borrowing" them (unless you can call theft, a form of "borrowing"). The same study found that no legal ordinance had any impact on the criminal use of guns. In other words, draft all the laws you want to abuse legitimate owners and users, but you won't impact the criminal element at all.
Harper should crack down on the gun scofflaws, not pander to them.
The Star should employ editorialists that can park their ignorance and biases at the door, if they want to actually contribute to the public good in Canada.
H/T SDA for the opening links...