Election strategies for gun owners

As someone who is concerned about our current firearm laws in Canada and who has been involved for years in the battle, I have concerns about the political tactics some pro-firearms activists are proposing.

Most of it stems from feeling that the Conservatives, having formed the government, albeit a minority one, have not aggressively dismantled the Firearms Act. Because of this, we are seeing proposals from some groups and individuals that call on firearm owners to withhold donating money to the Conservative Party until they become more aggressive on the firearms issue or that we even withhold our votes from Conservative candidates in the next election to punish them for their perceived inactivity.

This is such a destructive process that I seriously question the judgment of those who are actively promoting these plans.

Let’s look at the options.                     

The Liberal government of Jean Chretien originally brought in Bill C68, which got rid of the old FACs, brought in the compulsory licensing program that made any gun owner who didn’t acquire one a criminal, put the long-gun registry in place and made administrative errors a criminal offence. If that wasn’t enough, Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, during the last federal election, called for a ban on semi-auto firearms. They have clearly associated themselves with Wendy Cukier and her coalition for Gun Control. Any firearms owner who associates him/herself with a program that would bring these people back into power is not thinking clearly.

The NDP, through their leader, Toronto Jack Layton, has called for bans on handguns, semi-auto firearms and the establishment of compulsory central storage for privately owned firearms.

The Greens have a stated firearms policy to ban all assault weapons (no definition of what that entails), clearer regulation of gun storage (again, no detail), a program to phase-out handguns by tightening eligibility requirements over time and a ban on large capacity magazines (They apparently didn’t realize that the Liberals beat them to it on that one).

That leaves us with the Conservative Party, which is being criticized for not living up to their pre-election promises on the Firearms Act.

The problem is that the Conservatives have a minority government that stays in power at the indulgence of the three opposition parties, none of which are sympathetic to firearms owners. There is absolutely no support from the Liberals, the NDP or the Bloc Quebecois (BQ) parties to reform the Firearm Act.

At one point there was the possibility that legislation to eliminate the long-gun registry would be tabled with MPs being allowed a free vote. It was thought that there might be enough opposition members who would individually support the legislation to pass it. However the Dawson College shootings put an end to that consideration.

Although there are many who fear that the Conservative’s commitment to firearms legislation reform is only skin deep, it is still the only real option available for gun owners. Bear in mind that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made positive public statements about getting rid of the long-gun registry and Yorkton-Melville MP Garry Breitkreuz has not only fought for gun owners since the beginning, he has almost single-handed kept the issue alive in the media and in Parliament. For gun owners to talk about not supporting him and his Party is truly a slap in the face to a parliamentarian who has worked his butt off to keep this issue in the public eye.

That won’t stop some gun owners from voting Liberal or NDP or (in Quebec) for the BQ. People vote their party of choice for a variety of reasons. Some vote from family tradition and some because they don’t own a handgun or a semi-auto and figure that they aren’t going to be directly affected by the proposed bans anyway. Others just have voting issues that are more important to them than firearm laws. But if protecting firearm ownership rights is their voting issue then I would want to know how those rights would be protected with a Liberal or NDP government in place.

I do believe that any firearm owner who votes for another party’s candidate in the next federal election, or stays home on election day and doesn’t vote as a protest or even refuses to donate to the Conservative party’s election funds is doing himself (as a gun owner) and all other Canadian gun owners a disservice.

Benjamin Franklin’s words are still true today: “We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately”.

He also said, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”. A very wise man.

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