Despite a repeated commitment that “everything is on the table” by Associate Minister of Defence Albina Guarineri, a firearms user appointed by Prime Minister Paul Martin to review the firearms legislation, it is clear from yesterday’s announcement that the government’s promises to the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (O.F.A.H.) and others amounted to nothing more than preelection window dressing.
“When Minister Guarnieri was appointed to review the firearms legislation, the outdoor community took her at her word and worked with her in good faith. However, despite the Minister’s promises to firearms owners across the country that they would be pleased with the results of the review, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Anne McLellan, one of the chief architects of this failed system, Minister Guarnieri, and the entire Cabinet sold us a false bill of goods,” said Mike Reader, O.F.A.H. Executive Director. “This expensive exercise has been nothing more than a preelection public relations ploy designed to appease firearms owners and a majority of Canadian taxpayers who have repeatedly told the government to scrap the long gun registry. Provincial and territorial governments have refused to enforce the $1 billion dollar firearms registry. Taxpayers’ federations, municipalities, police associations and front line officers across Canada have told the government that the registry is a fiscal and operational disaster and must be scrapped. Despite promises to the contrary, the government strung us along and produced nothing of substance to fix this hugely expensive, unnecessary and mistake prone system. Considering that this same government promised that the registry would cost taxpayers no more than $2 million, a figure that has been exceeded by 500%, their promise to cap the annual expenditure on the registry at $25 million is laughable.”
Over the last year, no less than ten regional and national public opinion polls have clearly indicated that a majority of Canadians favored a scrapping of the firearms registry for long guns. The Chief of Police of Canada’s largest municipality has repeatedly stated that the registry has not helped his officers to solve one single gun-related crime. The money wasted on the system could have been better spent by putting 10,000 more police officers on the streets, improving border security and stemming the flow of illegal handguns into Canada that have been used to commit crimes in our communities, and improving health care, education, and municipal infrastructure, instead of harassing legal, law-abiding farmers, hunters and recreational shooters.
Early in the review, the government suggested that at the very least they would consider decriminalizing the failure to register, but did not. They refused to listen to firearms owners’ requests for representation on the Firearms Advisory Committee. They ignored requests to restore funding for training programs, and failed to revamp a system that is so badly flawed, so riddled with mistakes, so prone to cost overruns and shady accounting practices that it calls into question why the system exists in the first place.
From day one, the firearms community across Canada offered to work with the government to make improvements that targeted the real problem, and promised to support the government in its attempts to toughen the laws and penalties against those who import, sell, and use illegal firearms to commit crimes. Instead of accepting this offer, the government has given millions of legitimate firearms owners the brush off and sold them out.
“In contrast to the rosy promises made by the government, the proposed changes fall short in almost every respect, and clearly indicates that they aren’t listening to our concerns,” noted Reader. “With a federal election on the horizon, firearms owners and taxpayers will have an opportunity to send the government a message at the ballot box. Liberal backbenchers such as Paul Steckle, Rose Marie Ur, Roger Galloway and others, who have worked so hard for so long on behalf of the farmers, hunters and recreational shooters to achieve meaningful changes to the firearms legislation, must surely be disappointed with this betrayal by their own government. If the Liberal government truly believes that this package of