Prime Time Crime  


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of June  5, 2006)

Firearm Registry Worked Like a Charm

  By John Martin

After ten years of misfires the gun registry is mercifully being dismantled.  A quick execution would have been preferred but death by budgetary starvation and lack of enforcement will suffice.  The registry has been thoroughly discredited based on its cost over runs and failure to impact violent crime.

In truth though, the previous government never seriously championed the registry for its crime prevention capacity.   Rather, the registry served a number of politically motivated functions that played out quite nicely for the Liberals. 

The first objective associated with the registry was solidifying the female vote.  Liberals have always done a good job in this area.  But with the registry, the government seized an opportunity to be seen as the only party that would protect women from domestic violence.  By opposing the registry, Reformers were portrayed as ambivalent to violence against women.

The registry also helped to neutralize the perception that compared to Preston Manning, Liberals were soft on crime.  After all, if the Reformers were so concerned about cracking down on crime, surely they would support legislation that would (supposedly) take guns away from criminals.  The right-wingers had no speedy rebuttal and looked lost as activists, academics, journalists and others praised the registry. 

While guns are a way of life in rural areas, in urban centers they usually only mean trouble.  The registry was the perfect vehicle to accentuate a growing urban – rural rift and appeal to big cities with their growing populations.  Let the Reformers have the dwindling number of votes from the hinterland.

As the Alliance morphed into the Conservatives and the Auditor General confirmed the over runs and deceit associated with the registry, Liberals adapted once again.  Unable to defend the registry as having any tangible value, they switched to praising the legislation as a symbolic measure, emblematic of our moral superiority to the Americans and their gun culture. 

“Dismantling the registry is what Bush would want,” they screamed.

Conservative attacks on the registry were now proof that Stephen Harper held not wholesome Canadian values, but scary American ones.  The gun control issue was manipulated to cash in on growing anti-Americanism in this country and the image of Harper as a U.S. lap dog helped drive NDP voters over to the Libs. 

For over a decade the Liberals maintained that those who wanted to quash the registry didn’t care about violence to women, were pandering to a bunch of inbred hayseeds, and desired to change us into the 51st state.  

Liberals have always insisted that’s what good for the Liberal Party of Canada is good for the country.  With four election wins in a row, it would appear the registry has more than served its true purpose.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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