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Creating 150,000 paper criminals

The gun registry: Turning 150,000 regular law-abiding citizens into paper criminals.

Pierre Lemieux - March 10, 2008

In the March 1 Canada Gazette, the federal government proposed "three independent initiatives... to enable previously lawful firearms owners to bring themselves back into compliance." (Interestingly, the French translation blurs the "previously lawful" and the "bring themselves back.") Disregarding a minor fee waiver and other aspects of the regulatory jungle, these initiatives would extend for a third year the 2006 amnesty for long-gun owners who have neglected to renew their possession and acquisition licences, or have not registered all their guns, or have let the non-renewable possession-only licences expire.

Since 2001, being in possession of a firearm without a licence carries a jail sentence of up to 10 years. According to a regulatory impact analysis statement that accompanied the proposed orders, "as of January 31, 2008, more than 150,000 expired licence holders were still in possession of their firearms," and are now paper criminals. This does not include all those (certainly in the hundreds of thousands) who did not apply for the new licences and kept illegally their formerly legal firearms, or who got a licence but did not register all their guns.

This whole field is the example par excellence of previous liberties turned into crimes, of a regulatory jungle that very few people understand, and of a political and bureaucratic class very happy with the increased power they have gained thereby.

Before the licencing requirement came into force, the government ran a big information campaign. At least one company involved in the campaign was Groupaction, which was also implicated in the sponsorship scandal--a fact that is not immaterial as we must remember that these controls are imposed by the corruptible state, not by sinless angels from heaven. In the Summer of 1999, the government even hired students to lure gun owners into applying for a licence so they would be sucked into the system. The cool and misleading propaganda avoided mentioning the criminal implications of non-compliance: it was like a new service brought to you by your loving government.

Since then, the state has shown its teeth. The regulatory impact statements in the Canada Gazette are more explicit: "potential consequences for non-compliant long-gun owners," "criminal prosecution," "having... their firearms seized," "Criminal Code illegal possession offences," "enforcement measures..." In point of fact, all this started several years ago.

Why does the state want these 150,000 paper criminals to come and beg for their "privileges"? One reason, of course, is that it would be a tall order to arrest, try and jail all of them--"criminalizing large numbers of otherwise law-abiding firearms owners," as one of the impact statements puts it. Moreover, other Canadians might then realize what gun control is all about.

The regulatory impact statements suggest another reason: "The moment a firearms owner becomes non-compliant (e.g. licence has expired), that individual is automatically removed from the continuous eligibility screening, thereby withdrawing a tool enabling law enforcement to take pre-emptive measures..." Neglecting the confused grammar, the Newspeak expression "continuous eligibility screening" means, in English, continuous surveillance and peeping into the gun owners' intimate behaviour--like question 6(d) which, every five years, forces the applicant to reveal if he (or she) has "experienced a divorce, a separation, a breakdown of a significant relationship."

With their twisted logic, the statocrats admit that they want to bring everybody into the system in order "to take appropriate actions as required, including the revocation of a licence and seizure of a firearm." They want to force you to get a licence in order to be better able to seize your firearms when they want to. Kapitch, Ivanov?

More articles by Pierre Lemieux