Canadian Government to Ban Handguns:
Facing elections in late January, due to a no-confidence vote in Parliament that resulted from a corruption scandal, Canada's ruling Liberal party will announce a handgun ban on Thursday. All legally-owned handguns have been registered in Canada since the 1930s.
On September 22, 1998, Anne McLellan (the Liberal Minister of Justice) said "we're not interested in confiscating their guns, as long as they are legitimate gun owners, as long as they store them appropriately, transport them appropriately and so on ..."
That same day, in a debate in Canada's Parliament, Liberal MP John McKay (Scarborough East) stated,
Turning now to the motion, the first issue is the confiscation of private
property. If the mover thought about that for more than five seconds, he would realize that a proper registration system gives security of ownership and enhances value. Far from confiscating, it does the exact opposite and legitimizes the owning of firearms. Certainly property registration does wonders for land titles and land values as it does for motor vehicles and other forms of property. Why would it not be true with firearms?
On August 26, 2004, Canada's Commissioner of Firearms spoke at the annual meeting of the Canadian Professional Police Association. He declared: "For years, firearm owners have expressed fears regarding the confiscation of firearms. This is a concern I heard loud and clear when we held consultations with firearms organizations last fall. But, in fact, those fears have not materialized."
In a 1976, interview in the New Yorker, the late Nelson Shields, who was then the head of the group which is now known as the Brady Campaign, explained registration's purpose:
The first problem is to slow down the number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second problem is to get handguns registered. The final problem is to make possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition — except for the military, police, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors — totally illegal.
(Richard Harris, "A Reporter at Large: Handguns," New Yorker
, July 26, 1976, p. 58.)
More on Gun Control in Canada, Yesterday and Today:
All emphases added:
Hamilton Spectator (Ontario, Canada), Jan. 12, 1999:
[T]he main criticisms [of the new gun registration law] are: One, [critics] fear the slippery slope, that once their guns are registered, they can too easily be taken away. Easily concealed handguns have previously been confiscated without compensation.
Two, they sense being pegged as criminals. There is no U.S. constitutional argument to lean on — no "right to bear and keep arms" — just a feeling it's unfair and arbitrary. . . .
To a non-gun owner, a registry sounds entirely harmless. If you don't plan to engage in criminal acts, why oppose it? Count most federal officials among this group.
"Welcome to the weapons world," chuckles Jean Valin, a justice department spokesman, addressing gun owner concerns. "We are trying to tell (owners) go to sleep at night, because you have nothing to fear from this government. They like to invent bogeymen, and this is one of them."
Hamilton Spectator (Ontario, Canada), Jan. 4, 2001, item written by Howard Elliott, who is now the newspaper's Executive Editor:
A concern regularly cited by those who oppose [the registration] law, and gun licensing and registration in general, is that this is the first step on a slippery slope with the final destination being the government's intention to make guns illegal, or to make them so difficult to own, people will find owning a gun isn't worth the bother.
No doubt, there are people on the gun control side of the debate who favour this sort of outcome, just as there are people on the other side who believe Canadians should have unfettered rights to own firearms with minimal or no government involvement.
But we suspect that neither of these extreme viewpoints reflects the position of the average Canadian, who tends to be moderate and fair-minded. There is no evidence that gun registration will ever equal arbitrary seizure, or a law against ownership. In the end, this is about having firearms registered, so police will have more knowledge of who has guns and be in a better position to protect the public where danger does exist. That's an eminently reasonable goal.
Maclean's, May 22, 2000:
Canada . . . [is] portrayed in a pretty darn scary video by the U.S. National Rifle Association. The NRA (like many Canadian gun owners, to be sure) is particularly outraged by Bill C-68, the federal law requiring all firearms to be registered by the end of 2002. It's the old slippery slope argument: once the feds know where the guns are, it's just a matter of time before they take them away.
Or so, at least, argues the NRA . . . . It should, by all rights, be a tough sell these days. Americans have been shocked by a string of shootings at schools, churches, offices — even day-care centres. . . . [The piece goes on to discuss the Million Mom March movement.] But the early evidence is not all encouraging. It may take more than dying teens, or marching moms, to shift American attitudes.
Vancouver Sun, today (thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer):
Prime Minister Paul Martin will propose a ban on most handguns in Canada, CanWest News Service has learned.
Sources say Martin, who will make the election campaign announcement this morning, wants to choke off the supply of handguns in this country, particularly guns brought into the country illegally and those sold on the black market.
There will be some exemptions, including maintaining the right for police to carry handguns. The prime minister is also expected to announce a significant increase in resources for police to deal with the ban.
The Liberals say the thinking behind this crime strategy is that if no one is allowed to have a handgun in Canada, policing authorities will be in a better position to act on anyone who has a handgun or attempts to transport or sell a handgun.
The announcement will include the banning of all registered handguns in Canada. However, sources say special arrangements will be made for gun collectors.
UPDATE: Dave Kopel's post below has much more.
FURTHER UPDATE: Just to make it clear, I'm suggesting that gun owners are right to doubt assurances that they can "sleep at night" with no fear of gun bans. In Canada, handgun registration was eventually followed by the late 1990s long gun registration, which in turn is now followed by a proposal for a handgun ban (which would likely be made cheaper and thus more politically feasible by the presence of handgun registration). Gun owners who slept at night now wake up to find one sort of gun ban on the doorstep; gun registration is indeed now being followed by a law against ownership; the NRA's "old slippery slope argument" seems to have proven sensible. And it seems quite plausible that a handgun ban would eventually be followed by a rifle or shotgun ban -- for instance, as people point out (quite accurately) that many criminals, if denied access to handguns, would use much more lethal sawed-off shotguns, and banning all long guns is necessary to "choke off the supply of [sawed-off shotguns and rifles] in this country, particularly guns [cut down in] the country illegally and those sold on the black market."
Long gun registration surely isn't ineluctably causing handgun bans; even handgun registration needn't necessarily be followed by handgun bans. These are tendencies, not guarantees. But when past assurances of the "don't worry, no gun bans looming, we're just talking modest regulations here" variety prove to be unsound, perhaps gun owners should be skeptical when they hear similar assurances in the future.
Related Posts (on one page):
- More on Gun Control in Canada, Yesterday and Today:
- Canadian Government to Ban Handguns: