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Garry Breitkreuz’s Bill C-301

Canadian Conservatives need to understand: bold action and not gradual change is required to recover our freedoms.

Pierre Lemieux - February 17, 2009

For more than a decade, Saskatchewan Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz (with his able assistant, Dennis Young) has been an indefatigable opponent of the 1995 Bill C-68, which created the Firearms Act and introduced in the Criminal Code new crimes for peaceful possession of guns. Mr. Breitkreuz has now introduced private member’s Bill C-301 — “to scrap the useless long-gun registry”, his press release says.

Garry Breitkreuz is a very honest, straight man, with a deep and genuine concern for the restoration of our liberties. Straight and honest perhaps up to naïveté: he is sure that Leviathan can be controlled.

Consider what he has been up against. The 1995 law created two different processes: a gun registry and a cattle registry. The gun registry is the virtual place where all firearms have to be registered. The cattle registry is the licencing system that requires any firearm user (even of a borrowed firearm) to apply every five years for a personal licence: gun owners are registered like cattle. If your licence is revoked or not renewed, you have to relinquish your guns, which you previously had to register. If you don’t obey, you are liable to up to 10 years in jail.

The 1995 law set up a powerful police bureaucracy with arbitrary powers. Most Canadians could not understand the deliberately complex legislation. Last year, the government admitted that 150,000 known Canadians had become unlicenced paper criminals. Many of them probably even don’t know that they could hear the boots any time.

The Canadian Alliance and later the new Conservative Party promised to abolish it. But to abolish what, that is the question. At the beginning, it was probably the whole 1995 Liberal law but, as time passed, the promise became more and more subliminal. With a bit of wishful thinking, one could still find it between the lines of a resolution adopted by the 2005 Conservative convention.

In the meantime, the enemies of liberty had reinterpreted the protest against C-68 as a case against “the Firearms Act” ignoring the related amendments to the Criminal Code. A few provincial governments boasted about not enforcing the law — that is, its purely administrative aspects — while they continued to prosecute under the new provisions of the Criminal Code. And this was only the beginning. The masters of words who rule us focussed the dissenters’ arguments towards “the gun registry”. Many dissenters fell in the trap head first and adopted the gun-registry terminology. The “gun registry” rapidly became “the long-gun registry”. And everybody started applauding or damning the Conservative Party for wanting to abolish “the long-gun registry”.

For many years, Garry Breitkreuz had been silenced by Stephen Harper and Conservative apparatchiks, who only tolerated him when he repeated the muddled party line about “the long-gun registry”. I fear Mr. Breitkreuz has resurfaced publicly with more of the same when he tabled Bill C-301 last week. The Canadian Unlicensed Firearms Owners Association (CUFOA) issued a press release which, I think, rightly criticizes the bill.

The probability that a private member’s bill without official government support, which is what C-301 is, will be adopted by the House of Commons is small. If the House does not get to vote on the bill in third reading, no damage is done to the power of the state and the support of some gun owners will have been bought at a cheap political price. If there is a vote, it is unlikely that the bill will gather a majority; Harper can then claim that he has no choice but to embrace the Liberals’ law. If the bill were to pass, the essential of the Liberal gun controls would remain in place. One way or another, Bill C-301 can only entrench C-68.

More articles by Pierre Lemieux