John Weston’s assistant called me on Monday requesting an opportunity to respond to my previous post. I promised to print his response, in full, unedited, and that’s what I’ve done below.
The Long Gun Registry Debate – Some Things Surprising – and Some Business As Usual*
Life offers many surprises. We’ve seen some surprises – and some “business as usual” leading up to the September 22nd vote to scrap the Long Gun Registry Debate.
Why do I believe we should scrap the Registry? Four reasons:
1. Our Conservative Government has always been clear: we support the licensing of people who own firearms and the registration of prohibited and restricted weapons.
2. We know full well that criminals do not register their guns.
3. That’s what makes the long-gun registry wasteful and ineffective. The registry has never targeted actual criminals committing gun crime. It targets farmers, duck hunters and other law-abiding gun owners.
4. Our government is focusing on security, reducing crime and using tax payer dollars more effectively.
It’s not surprising to find disagreement among people in our riding about matters such as the Gun Registry. In the health field, we listen to doctors, other health care providers, and patients. They don’t always agree. In education, we listen to educators and students; they have different opinions. I have publicly expressed my great respect for West Vancouver’s police chief and I take his opinion seriously. At the same time, it’s not surprising that he disagrees with other authorities in our riding who find the Long Gun Registry to be a useless waste of money. This is what we received from a retired veteran RCMP officer who resides in the riding:
“A bureaucratic bungle from the word go and started for all the wrong reasons, funded beyond any sense of propriety and logic and still doesn’t come close to gun problems of today. Handguns, automatics etc are still the biggest concern and these are not mentioned. I have to register a shotgun if I want to shoot skeet. It doesn’t make sense … Stop the registry – maybe some good may come of the money it may save.”
Many other constituents have expressed their support for scrapping the registry, including mayors. Here’s another quote:
“We feel the registry for long guns is a huge waste of tax payer money and does nothing to prevent violent crime in Canada. Why can’t the politicians from all parties use common sense and get together to scrap this ridiculous registry, channeling these funds toward the police force?”
Auditor General Sheila Fraser condemned the Registry as inefficient and wasteful and for containing unreliable data. In her 2006 report, she stated that there is no evidence that the registry helps reduce crime. She also indicated that it’s impossible to tell the real costs associated with the registry since so many costs have been hidden.
Scrapping the Registry does not change the requirements to own long-guns. Long-gun owners will always need a license. Furthermore, a registry will remain in place for prohibited and restricted firearms, such as handguns.
If the long gun registry is repealed, police will continue to have access to information regarding who owns a restricted or prohibited firearm (like a handgun), and they will continue to be able to determine who has a licence to own a firearm, including long guns. This is important because when police go on a call, they will still know who has a firearm license and where that person lives.
I want the long-gun registry scrapped as soon as possible – not because we are against crime control, but precisely because we are in favour of it. It’s time to re-focus our energy and resources on fighting crime and stopping criminals – not law-abiding Canadians who happen to own a firearm.
It’s not surprising that an opposition critic who resides outside the riding would attempt to drive a wedge between mayors who support the long gun registry and others. In fact, in announcing his desire to be acclaimed by the Liberal Party in our riding, he spoke of his desire to “represent West Vancouver”. For someone who lives outside the riding, in the Southlands, it’s not surprising for him to ignore 62% of the population of our riding who reside outside West Vancouver. The rural parts of our riding and the interests of people who live there (many of whom enthusiastically endorse the scrapping of the Registry) should not be overlooked.
Decisions taken in public life, such as this one, are often not black-and-white, but subtle and difficult to reach. It’s one thing to remain consistent, and to act for principled reasons. It’s another thing to buckle and change, for reasons of political expediency. NDP M.P. Peter Stoffer, responding to pressure from NDP Leader Jack Layton, announced recently that he would reverse a career-long commitment to scrap the Registry. “I have had this view since 1995,” said Peter Stoffer. “I have always believed that the gun registry is a failure in principle and a failure in policy, and that we could do much better with different policies.” (Globe and Mail, September 8, 2010). Within two weeks of that statement, Mr. Stoffer has indicated he will reverse his position. Similarly, career Conservative Daniel Veniez was terminated by a Conservative Government from his role as Chairman of Ridley Terminals. He recently and suddenly changed stripes to become acclaimed to run as the Liberal Candidate in our riding, where he does not reside. It’s not surprising that he suddenly professes opposition to all things proposed by a Conservative Member of Parliament, regardless of their merit.
*John Weston, Member of Parliament for West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country.