The bedrooms of the nation

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Want a gun permit? Tell us about your sex life

by George Jonas
National Post

‘What’s your topic?’ my editor wanted to know. “Guns once more, with feeling,” I replied, although I could have saved a syllable by saying simply “Guns more with feeling.” The late opera composer Tibor Polgar urged his librettists to save syllables. “To make the world a better place,” he used to say.

No doubt. Saving a syllable here, a question there, a requirement or prohibition somewhere else, to say nothing of a policy or law, might make the world more livable. Saving our breath is the best solution in the end — but in the interim it’s hard not to talk about guns once more.

Pierre Lemieux is an economist whose most recent book, Comprendre l’economie, just won the prestigious Prix Turgot in Paris. When it comes to guns, he’s a hobbyist, not a lobbyist, but in his spare time he has been trying to make the authorities comprehend something about the relationship between public safety and his love life. Not because he thinks there’s a nexus, but because the government does.

Before renewing his gun permit in 2007, the authorities decided to inquire into Lemieux’s bedroom history. Did he divorce anyone in the last two years? Did he break up with a girlfriend? If yes, use a separate sheet to explain.

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Pardon me? Explain?

Well, it was nothing personal. Apparently, Canada’s government feels it ought to know the romantic status of all firearm owners. Hmm. Didn’t someone say the state had no business in the nation’s bedrooms? Who would say something so fuddy-duddy? Oh, the same fellow who actually said fuddy-duddy: Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Well, that was before the Flood.

It could be worse, I suppose. Canada’s gun clerks could ask applicants if they suffer from erectile dysfunction. Perhaps clerks don’t ask because they worry about a human rights tribunal finding the question discriminatory. Or maybe they haven’t thought of it yet.

Anyway, when the government’s minions popped their question in 2007, Prof. Lemieux made his reply directly to the Prime Minister: “You will note that, as a proud descendant of the disobedient French Canadian coureurs de bois,” he wrote, “I have not answered one of the [permit renewal] form’s indiscreet and obscene questions. I answered that my love affairs are none of your business.”

I doubt if Stephen Harper saw the letter — his office tries to shield him both from coureurs de bois and economists — but when I saw a copy, I wrote: “Atta boy, Pierre. It may not do much good, but cowering like mice before the insolence of office, as Shakespeare called it, won’t do much good either.”

Indeed, it didn’t. The authorities refused to renew the professor’s permit, and now he’s challenging them in court. But why are the authorities treating firearms owners like circus animals, making them jump through humiliating hoops? For public safety? Hell, for safety, gun ownership among professors should be encouraged, not discouraged.

The year Canada demanded to peek into Lemieux’s bedroom, a deranged young man named Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. The 23-year-old Korean nutcase might have claimed more victims if it hadn’t been for 76-year-old Liviu Librescu, a visiting professor from Israel who blocked Cho from entering his classroom while students escaped through the windows. Librescu may have stopped the killer for good had he been armed, but he wasn’t, and paid for his intervention with his life.

After the massacre, The Wall Street Journal quoted Professor Lemieux as saying that “mass killings were rare when guns were easily available, while they have been increasing as guns have become more controlled.”

A reverse trend in America supported the Canadian scholar’s observation. A national survey conducted in 1996 by the University of Chicago found a reduction of crime rates in states that permitted citizens to carry concealed weapons (homicide by 8.5%, aggravated assault 7% and rape 5%.) Not surprisingly, the number of “carrying” states grew from nine in 1988 to 31 in 1996.

Lemieux should win his court challenge in a sane world–but in a sane world there would be no government intrusions to challenge in the first place. The challenge arises because ours is an insane world, with temporary remissions during which we write constitutions and bills of rights — then lapse back into lunacy and plead with judges to abort whatever embryonic issues are left over from our one-night stands with liberty.

What’s Canada doing in Pierre Lemieux’s bedroom? Questioning citizens about their romantic lives as a condition of a firearm permit is so obviously removed from any legitimate consideration of public safety that I won’t dignify it with analysis. I’ll merely say that people likely to shoot their exes or spouses are also likely to (1) check the wrong box on government forms to keep their permits, or (2) shoot their significant others with guns whose permits have expired.

Such forms are good only for giving award-winning academics apoplexy and reminding the rest of us that Big Nanny is boss. Also, to demonstrate that Canada’s legacy is passing from the proud descendants of voyageurs to the leering descendants of voyeurs. For shame.


Original source: National Post

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