Shooting from the hip
There’s something distinctively hollow about a pledge by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to scrap the gun registry. On one hand, anything that resembles doing away with red tape and paperwork is something all Canadians, not only gun owners, would welcome.
By the same token, when the prime minister prefaces his public comments on the gun registry with politically-inspired pokes at the Liberals, you really have to question whether his pronouncement is a matter of public policy, or the latest skirmish between a party that’s clinging to power and a party wanting to unseat the incumbent.
This is what we’ve come to expect from the Conservative administration. Its tactics are aimed at achieving its agenda through a combination of bullying, deceit and deflecting.
So what are we supposed to make of a private member’s bill tabled by Saskatchewan MP Gerry Breitkreuz? He says the things Canadians want to hear, when he notes the long gun registry has been a colossal black hole of unlimited spending.
The latest estimate by the Auditor General put the price tag at $2 billion in 2005, if you factor in the direct and indirect costs. He also contends the registry has failed miserably in reducing crime or preventing firearms from being used in criminal acts.
There are two problems with this approach. One is the bill is being brought forward by a backbench Conservative MP from a rural riding in Western Canada.
MP Gerry Byrne says if the government was serious about abolishing the long gun registry, why didn’t the Conservatives introduce the bill? Wouldn’t that approach be a more credible and serious attempt to end a program that went off the rails a long time ago?
With all due respect to Mr. Breitkreuz, he doesn’t sound all that convincing when he talks about possibly getting all of his government colleagues on side, and if he could get a few more ‘rural’ MPs on side from the Opposition benches, he just might get his bill passed.
The second problem has to do with the prime minister’s own words on the subject. He just can’t say he opposes the gun registry because there have been numerous cost overruns and he’s listening to the pleas of law-abiding gun owners.
He has to resort to a crutch he uses far too often – that is, blaming the Liberals for introducing the gun registry in the first place.
It’s true the Liberals were minding the store when the registry came into effect a decade ago, and have to shoulder part of the blame for the mess it’s in. However, it’s politically crass for Harper to adopt a ‘I told you so’ stance when he says shooting incidents such as the one that occurred at Dawson College in Quebec would never have happened if the Liberals weren’t the governing party.
So the prime minister and the Conservatives continue to bash the Liberals, and Canadians are left wondering why they’re still hearing talk of abolishing the gun registry, when the idea was first raised while the Conservatives were in Opposition.