I didn’t think it would ever happen under a minority Conservative government; but happen it did, at least in part. In my December Alberta Outdoorsmen column, I discuss the passage through second reading of Bill C-391 in the Canadian House of Commons. The private member’s bill would abolish the controversial registration of non-restricted firearms (rifles and shotguns normally used by hunters and sport shooters, etc.). As I have written in various columns since 1998, the odious gun registration was never designed to reduce crime, but was poorly crafted, grossly mismanaged and a colossal waste of tax-payers money (an estimated $2 billion).
Why didn’t I think this bill would pass? Because all the opposition parties were in favor of the registration despite its waste, mismanagement and ineffectiveness. Although the Conservatives promised to abolish the registry, I didn’t think they could do it until they were able to seat a majority government. So, why did a majority (164-137) of Members of Parliament vote in favor of the bill at second reading? Because each MP was allowed to vote freely, not subject to party discipline. Thus, several Liberals and New Democrats voted with the government and the wishes of their constituencies to abolish the registry.
But what caused these MPs not to side with their parties? I think a lot had to do with the actions of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. Like many urban police agencies, his was having trouble controlling the illegal guns that were being used in crime in his city. Instead of addressing the actual weapons being used (unregistered, restricted or prohibited hand guns illegally smuggled from the States), he decided to go after law abiding gun owners. He raided the homes of some owners whose gun licences had expired and confiscated their firearms. (Many of these owners had not been notified by the registration system that their licences were about to expire, or their renewal paperwork had been lost in the system—a common occurrence.) The police home invasions confirmed the suspicions of many conspiracy theorists among firearms owners, and the resultant outrage generated in print, on blogs and in letter writing campaigns to politicians of all stripes pushed many to reconsider their position on the issue. Thanks Bill Blair for demonstrating what many have been saying for years.
The bill still has a long way to go. It is now before a committee, where amendments can be recommended. It then must pass a third reading before the House, after which it goes to the Senate for its consideration. This will take months, and the government could fall before royal assent, in which case the process would have to start all over again. But a milestone has been reached. For once, a majority of MPs finally understand what firearms owners have been telling them for 14 years—a firearms registration system is a colossal waste of money and effort that should be directed at actually fighting gun crime.