Is Ottawa’s firearms policy being driven by the bureaucrats?

Some may remember from a number of years ago the British TV comedy, “Yes Minister”. The show revolved around the political adventures of a newly elected British MP who received an appointment to a Minister’s position and his dealings with his senior bureaucrats.  The new Minister was naïve and inexperienced and the long-time bureaucrats manipulated and mislead him to ensure that their agenda was followed and not his. At that time I had a friend who was a provincial MLA who told me that the scenario was closer to factual than one would like to think.

I fear we are seeing something similar in our federal government today.

We now have a government – albeit a minority one – that came into power with the support of firearm owners and which promised to alleviate some of the pain and suffering that came along with the deposed Liberal government’s Bill C-68 and its attached regulations. With their minority position it was obvious that it was going to be impossible to rewrite the Firearms Act, as there was no official support from any of the opposition parties. To the contrary the Liberals and the NDP have been braying about the outright banning of handguns and auto-loaders generally. But the government has said the right things at the right time as witness Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day’s recent refusal to acquiesce to demands by the provinces of Quebec and Ontario to ban handguns.

Beyond that, it seems to me that there are changes in attitude and policy that could be brought into play. At some level it may be happening but I don’t see a lot of places where it shows. To the contrary there are indications that the bureaucracy is continuing with their old Liberal anti-gun agenda come hell or high water.

Some concerns:

The Justice Ministry lawyers have been aggressively attacking 12/6 handgun owners who purchased 12/6 handguns between February 1995 and December 1998 but were never grandfathered due to a legislative screw-up. (for those unfamiliar with the term, a 12/6 handgun generally one with a barrel 4 inches or shorter).

There are bureaucrats who are extremely biased against firearms ownership and who have been part and parcel of the development and implementation of the federal Liberals firearm laws, but who have been maintained within the Canadian Firearms Centre bureaucracy and even promoted.

The CFOs across the country are now standardizing the ATTs, which means that all provinces will now be issued at the most restrictive level rather than the more liberal rules that some provinces had in place.

Even the recent long gun amnesty was limited in its effects. For one thing it was limited to long guns – restricted and prohibited firearms were excluded – and secondly, although it protects individuals from criminal prosecution it does not protect them from having their firearms seized. It was duly noted that the Canadian Firearms Centre was quick to inform police departments that they had every right to seize those firearms.

A posting on The Lost Target website notes that when licensing came into effect the government initially charged a $50 declaration fee to a hunter or shooter bringing firearms across the border. They then reduced that fee to $25 in 2005 to encourage Americans to come to Canada to hunt and compete in shooting events because it was found that the $50 fee was a deterrent and that border crossings had declined sharply. When the fee was $50 the declaration was good for one year, but when they dropped the cost, the declaration became good for only 60 days, so any shooter coming across the border several times over the period of a year could end up paying considerably more that previously. Now this could be just bureaucratic stupidity – there’s often enough of that to go around – but you really have to wonder.

 The Canadian UN contingent has continued to support and foster United Nations policies and recommendations for more onerous gun laws around the world, although there is some indication that they have been influenced to at least recognize the legitimacy of domestic firearm owners. In a brief on the Foreign Affairs and International Trade website, entitled “Small Arms and Light Weapons”, there is the statement, “DFAIT recognizes the existing and legitimate interests of Canadian firearms owners, producers, brokers and retailers”. The statement can be dismissed as simply words which have no real meaning, but I doubt if those words were there in any documents of the previous government.  

Years ago I read the book Renegade in Power, the unauthorized biography of John Diefenbaker. If my memory serves me correctly it made the point that one of Diefenbaker’s political downfalls was that that he did not clean out the bureaucracy upon coming to power. The bureaucracy he inherited had deep philosophical and personal connections to the defeated Liberal party and stonewalled the new government every step of the way. I believe that we have the same situation in Ottawa right now, but Stephen Harper is not John Diefenbaker and I would be very surprised if he wasn’t aware of the problem. We can only hope that he sees it as a serious problem and deals with it as his government progresses.

Now having said all that, I am clearly on the outside looking in and maybe there are things happening that simply aren’t apparent to the masses. I truly hope so. Maybe I was just looking to see some blood on the floor when the Conservatives came to power.

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