A rose by any other name: the potential reinvention of the long gun registry

During the 2015 election campaign, the Trudeau Liberals made several promises, and those surrounding changes to the current firearm legislation are on the table today. And the intricacies of the proposed changes will be discussed at another time, rest assured.

But what seems important to mention at this particular juncture is the comment being made consistently by party members on the heels of discussing what will potentially be seen in the changes being tabled today; that gun owners need not worry – the long gun (rifles and shotguns) registry is not being brought back into action.

And so it shouldn’t. It was expensive, convoluted, and didn’t work. Hence the Harper government’s abandonment of the program. In 2012, long before he was PM, Trudeau commented the long gun registry didn’t work, and shouldn’t exist.

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Enter 2018. Part of the legislation being tabled today (there will be a two-week debate period, with the vote at the end), will put the onus of keeping records of who is purchasing what, and how many, firearms on the shoulders of the sellers and shopkeepers. They will be expected to keep detailed records of who purchased what, and when.

And on the face of it, the notion seems perfectly reasonable – many gun store owners already keep the information on hand, and it won’t be a huge hardship to take down the details of a purchaser and purchase.

But what possible use is that information if it is not then disseminated to the government, collated and tracked? For those names, and the list of firearms to be of any real justifiable use, an office will have to exist to track, check daily, and reference the information, and, you know….register it. There’s an old saying about walking and talking like a duck that applies.

To paraphrase the immortal words of Blackadder, “…it’s a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.”

And who will pay for this non-government registry that is in fact a registry? The tax-payer. What was one of the reasons the original registry was scrapped? Amongst other things, cost.

And why does this matter? Because one of the big ‘selling features’ of this proposed legislation is the promise of never dealing with the spectre of the long gun registry, and we can’t say that actually seems true. So what other secrets hide inside the legislation?

In fact, the proposed legislation is ambiguous enough that in a bold move, Southwest NB MP Karen Ludwig is currently withholding her vote, waiting to obtain further details, and understand what the constituents of her riding think and want prior to making her final decision.

And we can only hope more do the same.