JUST SAYIN' - AN EDITORIAL COMMENT
By Kirk Winter
There is an expectation on Parliament Hill that as part of Bill C-71, a federal law and order rewrite, the federal Liberals will ban the further purchase and importation of the original “Black Rifle”, the AR-15. Many expect the bill to go farther than that and order the confiscation of the close to 86,000 AR’s that are already in private hands right across Canada.
My Grade 12 Physics teacher taught me many years ago that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Bill C-71 has a minimum price tag of $137 million for its full implementation. You would think if the government was prepared to spend that kind of money to take one gun off the street that the carnage that firearm was currently causing must be unbelievable.
Many of us have seen the AR-15 misused by deranged and deluded individuals, but if we think hard about where those shootings occurred, virtually every crime was committed in the United States where the AR is unfortunately the mass shooters’ weapon of choice.
An extensive internet search of Canadian news data bases did not bring up a single misuse of the AR-15 in Canada in the last decade.
Why the difference you ask? It is because Canada already has layer upon layer of gun legislation in place that has reduced gun crime in Canada with registered firearms to negligible levels. The fact that ARs have been restricted in Canada since the 1970s, requiring more scrutiny by police to possess one, has thankfully prevented the deranged, the criminal or the serial abuser from using this firearm to commit their sad and sorry acts of criminality. The retail cost of the firearm has also kept the gun out of many people’s hands. Starting at $1,500, there are as many ARs in the hands of legitimate shooters as there are Corvettes in neighbourhood driveways. The gun is a luxury item in the gun owning community, and because it is restricted, it can only be used at target ranges and it is illegal already to use hunting.
A shooting friend of mine is in law enforcement and a search of CPIC data bases further confirmed that in the last decade not a single one of these rifles that was legally registered was stolen from a private gun owner and used in the commission of a crime. Unlike the United States where only a handful of states have safe storage regulations, all gun owners in Canada are by order of law to keep their firearms and ammunition under lock and key. That’s right, 86,000 AR-15s in public hands for over 50 years in Canada and no recorded records of misuse.
If the gun itself is not a problem, and the statistics bear that out, then why is the government about to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to the AR-15s confiscation and destruction?
Many in the gun and shooting community fear this ban is driven by a carefully calculated belief by federal Liberals that actions like these will help them hold onto power in the October 2019 federal election. The Liberals have been under pressure for the last year by the anti-gun lobby to use an unfortunate spike in gang and drug related crime in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal to pass sweeping changes to gun ownership regulations that would “ban all handguns and all military style assault weapons.”
Liberal Cabinet Minister and former Metro Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has gone coast to coast to hear what Canadians have had to say on this issue. By the government’s own reckoning “81 percent of presenters to the travelling parliamentary committee did not want a gun ban to be instituted.”
Liberal insiders have shared that many rural and western Liberals, including Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, have apparently held meetings with Blair pleading for caution on this issue. Blair has been told that Canada’s 2.5 million legal gun owners were instrumental in getting Stephen Harper elected in 2006, and that a widespread ban of both handguns and military style assault weapons would once again energize that community just in time for a fall election.
Blair and Prime Minister Trudeau are caught between a rock and a hard place with urban activists calling for a massive confiscation of legally owned firearms, and rural and western Canadians gearing up to fight all changes.
The Liberals know that they have to shore up their base with only months until voting day, and the AR-15 is going to be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Trudeau can claim that he has “done something by getting the granddaddy of all assault rifles off the street”, but also claim that “other law abiding gun owners including hand gun owners will not be impacted by this legislation,” hopefully allowing those individuals to still potentially vote Liberal.
Gun owners are still waiting to hear what Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, has to say on this ban. Conservative insiders have shared with me how conflicted Scheer is on an AR ban, knowing that to win, his party will need to win a significant number of seats in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal where currently Conservatives are as rare as unicorns. By embracing the “Black Rifle”, regardless of the data that may be on his side, Scheer risks the spectre of urban backlash against the Tories come voting day.
The AR ban will be supported by the Greens, the Bloc, the NDP, the Liberals and the Peoples Party leaving the Conservatives potentially on an island all by themselves. Scheer already has a problem with rabid pro-life advocates talking about re-litigating a woman’s right to choose in the upcoming election. Most political pundits are unsure of whether Scheer wants to potentially alienate another group of potential Conservative voters by becoming known as “the AR guy.”
Most gun owners are waiting with bated breath to see what Bill C-71 contains. Will they be financially compensated for private property that some have legally owned since the 1960s? Will the government wait until after the next election to begin the confiscation process?
The sad part about this pending legislation is that it ignores public input and the RCMP’s owns statistical data base to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to ban a firearm that has never been a problem in Canada since its arrival more than five decades ago.
If the Liberals are truly concerned about reducing crime and keeping Canadians safer there has to be a better way to spend $137 million. How about using that money for more border patrol agents to target gun smuggling from the United States, more “guns and gangs” police personnel or just for more policing in general. It would be money far more wisely spent.