(This column was published in the North Shore News on Jan. 10, 2001)

New gun law creates new class of criminals

By Leo Knight

NEWSPAPER editorials across the country have been exceptionally critical of Justice Minister Anne McLellan following the passing of the Jan. 1 deadline marking the implementation of the Liberals' new gun control legislation. 


The government estimates nearly a million Canadians have thus far failed to register their long-barrelled weapons making them de facto criminals. But some estimates are much higher. Whichever figure is accurate, the numbers of people involved make this case the single largest event of civil disobedience in the nation's history. 


One editorial openly mocked McLellan for taking a holiday at this time and in the headline exhorted her to "call her office." 


Police across the country have yet to receive any instructions on how to enforce the new law. In point of fact, many police officers, if not most, disagree with the government efforts in this endeavour. And, it's fair to say there are many police officers who have not registered their own rifles and shotguns in stark disobedience to the new law. 


There are many reasons to dislike the legislation. If it were merely a matter of simple registration, there would not be so much bold-faced opposition. 


The real question here is why is the government pushing through an unpopular and essentially valueless law? 


The Liberals said initially the registration would cost something in the area of $85 million, start to finish. The amount of money spent thus far is difficult to nail down exactly. But, the amount is certain to have exceeded $550 million and some estimates are as high as $1 billion of your hard-earned tax dollars. 


And for what? 


Under the previously existing laws, all handguns had to be registered. Anyone wishing to purchase a gun -- any gun -- had to have a Firearms Acquisition Certificate, which to obtain, one had to go through a police check and a criminal record check. 


For the past several years, a care-and-handling course had to be taken as part of the process as well.  


Sawed-off shotguns, any type of automatic weapon or weapon which could be modified to fire automatically have been prohibited by the Criminal Code for years. Added to that was a sort of catch-all section of the code called "possession of a weapon for a purpose dangerous to the public peace." Even if the weapon was held lawfully, once the intent changed, the individual was committing a criminal offence. 


All of the people who have yet to buy into the government's lunacy in this were following the laws until this new law. Suddenly, as of Jan. 1, more than a million Canadians are now committing a federal offence. 


I repeat, for what purpose? 


The vast majority of homicides committed in this country are committed with handguns, already subject to the most stringent of controls. The criminals who commit the crimes obtain their weapons on the black market or they steal the guns. There's no amount of new legislation that will either change that or prevent it. 


Equally, the biggest "user," if you will, of guns are members of organized crime groups. They are already prevented from obtaining legitimate weapons by virtue of their criminal associations. Yet, judging from the carnage on our streets, the drive-by shootings, the home invasions and the cold-blooded underworld executions, there doesn't seem to be any problem for them to obtain the tools of their trade. 


So what exactly is it the government is trying to do with their shiny new law?  


The genesis of the law is said to be the tragedy at L' école Polytechnique in Montreal when deranged misogynist Marc Lepine killed 14 women. But there's not one solitary clause in the new laws which would have prevented that slaughter. 


In fact, I doubt anyone can point out one single case where this legislation, had it been in place, would have saved a single life. 


Obviously, I'm a law and order proponent. But bad law drives me nuts. There is a host of areas where this government could and should focus their attention on enacting laws which would do some good. 


Instead, they waste time, money and manpower on misguided notions such as this new legislation. And in the process, they seem determined to make criminals out of a million or so previously law-abiding citizens. 


And so far this lunacy has only cost half a billion or so. No wonder McLellan won't answer her phone.






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