Be very afraid: Alan Rock returns (provide scary music)

Just when you are trying to think pleasant thoughts, out of the pond scum emerges our long departed (but not forgotten) former Liberal Justice Minister, Alan Rock.

The late and unlamented Liberal Justice Minister, the architect of the current iteration of Canada’s federal gun laws, has appeared in print blasting the federal Conservative government for extending the amnesty for those firearm owners whose licences have expired and/or have unregistered firearms in their possession.

As Monday’s Windsor Star editorial noted (Long guns: An amnesty of convenience), the Harper government recently extended its amnesty for long gun owners who haven’t obtained or renewed licences and haven’t registered their guns. So those who thumb their noses at the law have been given a free pass for another year. It’s hard to know which is more offensive: the government’s shameless pandering to the gun lobby at the expense of public safety, or the undemocratic trickery it is using to damage a gun control program that it knows it doesn’t have the votes to repeal in the House.

Most gun owners are law-abiding: nearly two million Canadians are licensed to own about seven million registered guns, which is a compliance rate of more than 90 per cent.

But the Tories are rewarding those who haven’t complied. And the amnesty weakens gun control despite strong public support for licensing and registration, and clear evidence that those measures are working.

Mr. Rock conveniently forgets that it was under his direction that two classes of licencing were initially set up. One, the Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) allowed the holder to possess existing firearms and also the acquire new guns. To get a PAL the gun owner had to write a test, go through a background check and pay a fee for that privilege. If you were a hunter or sport shooter or collector and you could see yourself buying some new equipment in the foreseeable future then that was the route you had to go.

But Mr. Rock’s bureaucrats knew that there was a large contingent of gun owners out there, who were not interested in acquiring any new guns and would show resistance to being forced to jump through all of those hoops to maintain ownership of a firearm or two that they had owned for decades. So those clever little government people came up with the Possession Only Licence (POL). Now, they said, you can get a POL for a very reduced cost of $10 and you won’t have to write any tests. So for a moderate fee and no testing you can legally keep your old guns and you will continue to be a good, law-abiding Canadian citizen. It’s for the good of the country.

But what they didn’t tell these people was that the POLs were a one time deal and if – five years down the road when your POL expired – you forgot to renew before the expiry date you were out of luck. Your old POL was gone and you couldn’t get a new one because they didn’t exist any more. So at that point you would have to either turn your guns over to the police to be destroyed or upgrade to a PAL with the requirement to take the tests and pay the higher fees.

Human nature being what it is, aided and abetted by the government not sending out renewal notices, many of these POL holders did not renew before their expiry date – many thought that their POL was a lifetime licence. Then they got letters saying they were illegally in possession of firearms which would be seized and destroyed.

If the Liberal government had stayed in power that’s exactly what would have happened, because I think that was the bureaucratic, long-term plan. And in fact it did happen in some cases. But the Conservative government when it came to power, not having the gun-banning genes of its predecessors, recognized the problem and have over the past few years put in place a series of amnesties allowing those affected to bring themselves in line with the law.

The government press release on the current amnesty says:

The changes will encourage compliance among firearms owners, and also ease administrative requirements for lawful firearms owners. The changes are:

  • Extending by one year the current fee waiver for firearms licence renewals or upgrades;
  • Extending by one year an amnesty which allows individuals with expired licences or in possession of unregistered non-restricted firearms to take steps to bring themselves into compliance; and
  • Allowing eligible holders of expired Possession-Only Licences (POL) to apply for a new POL within a year.

These three measures will be in effect until May 16, 2009.

The other option would be for the police to be going door to door confiscating gopher guns from farmers and family heirlooms from seniors who have unfortunately allowed their POLs to lapse.

But apparently that is what Mr. Rock wants to see happen.

Yesterday they were law-abiding citizens. Today their piece of paper is void and they are a threat to the safety of the country.

There is considerably more wrong with Mr. Rock’s comments, but those will have to be dealt with in another posting.

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One Response to “Be very afraid: Alan Rock returns (provide scary music)”

  1. Gary Mauser Says:

    The hypocrisy of Mr Rock lets us appreciate the quiet trustworthiness of Minister Day.
    The Conservatives are honoring their campaign promises. They are committed to finally focus the justice system on violent criminals rather than wasting police effort on absent minded farmers and hunters.

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