(Many thanks to the diligent folks at the NFA for putting this together – Ed)
This synopsis examines the firearms policies of the Conservative, Liberal and NDP Parties.
It will not address the firearms policies of the Bloc Quebecois, Green Party or other parties. Suffice it to say, the Bloc and Green Parties have extreme civil disarmament agendas.
The Liberal and NDP opposition parties have sent Canadians back to the polls for the third time in the last five years.
For the firearms community, the stakes of this election are clear. The Liberal Party of Canada is responsible for imposing the 1995 C-68 Firearms Act on Canadians. This act was a watershed moment for the firearms community of Canada.
Mandatory firearms licensing and universal firearms registration were inconceivable and unthinkable to the majority of Canadian firearms owners prior to this; and their imposition by the Chretien Liberal government and its Justice Minister Allan Rock, with the full cooperation and participation of the Coalition for Gun Control, inflicted a deep wound on the firearms community.
This wound has not healed even 15 years later, and will not heal until those bad gun laws are repealed and new firearms legislation is introduced. These changes will require a new Firearms Act that respects the rights and property of law-abiding Canadians.
LIBERAL PARTY OF CANADA
During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Liberal government of Jean Chretien lied about the massive financial taxpayer burden that their C-68 Firearms Act, and its thinly disguised civil disarmament agenda, would impose upon the public purse. The Liberals lied to the public during each phase of implementation of its firearms program and deliberately tried to hide actual costs of their gun control policy by routing funding through related government departments and agencies. They were so successful that, in her official report to parliament, Auditor General Sheila Fraser essentially stated that the real costs of the Liberal gun control program would probably never be known. Without question, Allan Rock and Jean Chretien targeted the Canadian firearms community for elimination.
During the federal election of 2004 and in the shadow of a damning report by the Auditor General of Canada on the massive overspending on the Liberal firearms program, Prime Minister Paul Martin promised to re-invest in that program and continue its implementation.
In the federal election of 2005/2006, Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin went a step further and promised to ban lawfully owned and legally registered handguns if re-elected. He was defeated, thanks in part to the opposition of law-abiding Canadian gun owners and other concerned voters.
In the 2008 federal election, then Liberal leader Stephane Dion promised to ban lawfully owned and legally registered semi-automatic rifles if elected. Instead, he delivered one of the worst Liberal electoral defeats in Canadian history. Canadian gun owners were once again, front and center, and made their voices heard.
In the last Parliament, present Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff denied a traditional free vote for Liberal MPs on private members bill C-391, a bill that would have simply recognized the failure of the long gun registration component of the Firearms Act, and ended the registration of non restricted long guns. Mr. Ignatieff has never responded to overtures from the NFA to meet and discuss firearms issues.
It is the present policy of the Liberal Party of Canada, if elected, to re-invest in the failed Firearms Act once more and introduce further restrictions, including the ban of semi-automatic firearms. The handgun ban policy of Paul Martin in 2006 has not been taken off of the table either. The Liberal Party has refused to recognize the failure of the Firearms Act, and the right of Canadians to own and use firearms. Liberal members of parliament have shown their constituents that they place more importance on the orders of their party leader and the agenda of the gun control lobby, than upon supporting Canadian residents who own firearms.
NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY
In 1995, the federal NDP Party was not fully committed to supporting the Liberal C-68 firearms legislation, but in ensuing years civil disarmament ideologues have seized control of NDP Party policy on firearms.
The NDP equivocated on the implementation of the C-68 Firearms Act during the 1990s and early 2000s. Opposition to the “long gun registry” from rural NDP MPs has been used to curry favour with voters in those ridings and give the appearance of a policy at least opposing long gun registration.
In truth, the NDP Party now supports long gun registration, and all other aspects of the current Firearms Act. In fact, they would like to see additional legislation introduced that would further restrict both legal firearms and their owners, especially handguns and semi-automatics.
During the vote on Bill C-301, NDP leader Jack Layton manipulated the “free” vote of his members, and delivered an NDP defeat to a bill that would have simply ended long gun registration.
In the aftermath of the defeat of Bill C-391, to add insult to injury, NDP MP Charlie Angus introduced his own private members bill which aimed not only to re-invest in the failed Liberal Firearms Act, but also empower and enable the firearms bureaucracy to ban firearms, confiscate those registered to Canadians, and further empower and embolden the anti-gun firearms bureaucracy for a renewed attack on the rights and property of the firearms community. The NDP member’s Bill C-580, was “sold” as the NDP’s “fix” for the Liberals failed C-68 Firearms Act.
NDP members of parliament who promised their constituents to vote for a bill to end long gun registration cannot be counted on to support fundamental firearms law reform. Those that did vote in favour of C-391 did so because NDP leader Jack Layton allowed them to. Those that did not did so because they won their ridings by enough of a margin to cushion the backlash from pro-freedom voters. Craven pandering to the civil disarmament lobby by the NDP continues, and the NDP has shown no willingness to accept that the Firearms Act is a failure, and support no other reforms other than to “make it easier to register”.
CONSERVATIVE PARTY OF CANADA
The position of the Conservative Party is more complicated.
The Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney started the modern era of “gun control” in the late 1980s in Canada. PC Justice Minister Kim Campbell pursued an agenda of gun control that banned guns, trampled the rights of Canadians to legitimately own and use firearms, and only stopped short of imposing mandatory firearms licensing and universal firearms registration due to financial projections of their costs.
PC Justice Minister Kim Campbell’s Bill C-17 Firearms Act of 1992 set the stage for today’s Firearms Act under which the firearms community continues to suffer.
In 1993, Kim Campbell replaced Mulroney as Prime Minister. In the 1993 federal election, Canadians defeated the Progressive Conservatives and reduced the party to two seats in parliament, a status from which it never recovered.
The firearms community led the exodus from the PC Party to the then new Reform Party.
The Reform, Canadian Alliance, and now Conservative Parties of Canada have all promised firearms law reform as part of their platforms as opposition, and now government.
However, since their election in 2006 the CPC government has introduced few expansive reforms to firearms laws and regulations. The government has introduced amnesties for expired firearms license holders owning only non restricted firearms, and the registration of previously unregistered non restricted firearms. These amnesties affect only non restricted firearms and their owners. The legal mess created by the Liberal Firearms Act in regards to 12(6) prohibited handgun owners and other licensed owners of legally registered prohibited firearms has not been addressed by the government.
The federal firearms bureaucracy has retrenched and is now hell-bent on imposing the last outstanding regulations of the C-68 Firearms Act, imposing further restrictive regulations, and pursuing a unilateral firearms reclassification initiative.
The Conservatives have introduced two bills, C-21 and C-24, as a government, but both of these went nowhere and fell well short of keeping their promises on firearms law reform.
Two Conservative MPs have introduced private members bills to reform firearms laws. Bill C-391 proposed an end to long gun registration and reforms to firearms regulations. Bill C-301 proposed to end long gun registration and addressed much of the pointless red-tape that the Firearms Act had previously imposed. Bill C-301 was voluntarily allowed to die, in favour of Bill C-391, once it was clear that the former would not receive the necessary support from opposition MPs. Conservative efforts to kill the long gun registry were ultimately derailed by flip-flopping NDP and Liberal MPs.
Since 2006, the CPC government has consistently delayed implementation of the previous Liberal government’s UN Small Arms Marking Initiative, an initiative designed to destroy what remains of the Canadian firearms industry after the 1995 C-68 Firearms Act. The government has also delayed the implementation of the gun show regulations component of the C-68 Firearms Act; regulations designed to end gun shows in Canada. This is to their credit, but these have only been delayed and these issues will be re-visited in December 2012.
The Conservative government has claimed, since their election in 2006, that substantive firearms law or regulatory reform is not possible due to the minority nature of the government. While there is some truth to this, reforms would have been possible during the last five years if the government had the political will or interest to pursue them.
In their first parliament, the CPC government can be forgiven for not having firearms law reform as paramount among their goals as a new government facing a hostile Liberal appointed bureaucracy, but in the last parliament, the lack of action on this file has become more and more apparent to firearms voters and cynicism and questioning of the Conservative government’s true intentions on firearms law reform have crept back in. Their political opponents have tried to take advantage of this feeling, and have attempted to turn firearms law reform into a “wedge issue” to use against the Conservative government.
THE FIREARMS COMMUNITY OF CANADA
The firearms community is now a much more politically sophisticated “special interest” voting bloc, and has been so for over a decade. The imposition of the Liberal C-68 Firearms Act forced gun owners to become more politically engaged in the public policy debate. The number of voters who count firearms law reform and the preservation of our firearms rights as key election points has continued to grow since 1995, rather than decrease, much to the Liberal’s chagrin.
Continued controversy over the cost of the Liberal Firearms Act, its public failures and a growing recognition, even amongst non gun-owning demographics, as well as the unjust burden it imposes upon law-abiding firearms owners, have all contributed to ensure that the firearms question remains a major national political issue in 2011; almost two decades since it first became part of the national consciousness. In the aftermath of C-68, Canadian gun owners have deliberately chosen to vote their sport, and they have put all political parties on notice that they are not prepared to forgive, nor forget any further betrayal on this issue.
The opposition parties seemingly do not understand this new reality, as evidenced by their continuing refusal to accept the failure of the Firearms Act and their ongoing political machinations to not only prop up the Liberal’s fatally flawed gun control program, but impose further restrictions, as we have seen in the public debate over Bill C-301, C-391 and the still-born NDP sponsored Bill C-580.
The Liberals cannot accept the failure of the Firearms Act. The NDP have engaged in offensive politicking over Bill C-301/C-391, while attempting to play both “sides” of the issue via their embarrassingly bad Bill C-580. It addressed none of the clearly delineated concerns of law-abiding gun owners, while opening the door to even greater restrictions and prohibitions. Either the NDP are of the opinion that Canadian gun owners are so unsophisticated that they cannot recognize a blatant attempt to hoodwink them, or they genuinely have so little grasp of the issue itself that they managed to delude themselves into thinking that they offered a viable alternative to the universally reviled Liberal C-68 Firearms Act.
The Conservatives have come closest to recognizing the importance of the firearms vote, as evidenced by the introduction of the stillborn government bills C-21 and C-24, and private members bills C-391 and C-301 from Conservative MPs.
These bills all fell short on delivering on long standing Conservative promises of sweeping firearms law reform, but stand out in stark contrast to the firearms policies and initiatives of the Liberal and NDP parties.
The Conservatives have extended the amnesty for licensing and registration to May 2012, before their government fell on March 25, 2011. Over the past several elections, the Conservatives have demonstrated a willingness to listen to our concerns and have resisted demands from anti-gun lobby groups such as the Coalition for Gun Control to impose additional restrictions on gun owners; even in the wake of high-profile shootings such as Dawson College and they remain willing to consult with the stakeholders on these issues.
Therefore, Canada’s National Firearms Association recommends that all members of Canada’s recreational firearms community continue to support and elect members from the Conservative Party of Canada.
It is logical that the firearms community work to elect a Conservative majority government, so that the government’s claims that substantive firearms law reform cannot take place without a CPC majority can be put to the political test.
Canada’s National Firearms Association looks forward to the day when we can advise the firearms community to vote for candidates from the Liberal, NDP or other parties based on their proven support for firearms law reform and firearms freedom. Unfortunately, today is not that day.
On May 2, please remember all of these factors and vote to secure, defend and advance the Canadian right and cultural tradition of firearms ownership, and vote for your firearms freedom and civil rights.
National Executive and Board of Directors
Canada’s National Firearms Association