Civil Disobedience North of the Border
As happened in England and Australia, firearms confiscation is afoot in the Great White North. Canada, courageously "led" by the Liberal Party of Jean Chretien (who is, predictably, a rank illiberal), passed a measure known as C-68 in 1999.
C-68 provides for the registration of all firearms in Canada. There are seven million firearms in Canada, and they are the lawful property of several million Canadians. To date, perhaps 100,000 sheepish Canadians (more sheepish than the usual Canadian, it seems) have turned themselves in to let their government know what they have and where to find it should a majority of Canadians decide that such property is no longer allowed to exist.
Pistols and revolvers have been registered in Canada since 1932, so C-68 appears to be aimed at rifles and shotguns. Despite the fact that pistols and revolvers have been registered in Canada since 1932, pistols and revolvers are used in 76% of Canadian crimes which involve a gun.
Another 11% of crimes with guns are committed with sawed-off shotguns and other weapons which are already illegal. That leaves just 13% of crimes committed with guns where rifles or shotguns might be involved. The left-wing Canadian establishment, undeterred by this utter and predictable failure of registration as a check on crime, now seeks to register rifles and shotguns.
There is a silver lining to this obscene black cloud of maple-scented totalitarianism.
An organization called LUFA - the Law-Abiding Unregistered Firearms Association - is encouraging Canadians to acts of civil disobedience.
The LUFA website, which is run by the LUFA founder, retired policeman R.B. (Bruce) Hutton, now states that it is not the "official" LUFA web site. Official or not, the site contains some wonderful news.
First, the site notes that "The government has about 4.4% of compliance from the 6.5 million Canadian Gun owners. This is in alignment with the Polls that have shown that about 70 - 80% of the Canadian public will NOT comply with the Law." (LUFA emphasis)
To make sure that the "benevolent" dictators in Ottawa will not be able to comply, LUFA has urged Canadians to refuse to comply with the law. The theory is that 6.5 million felons take up a lot of prison space, not to mention a lot of time and resources to process for imprisonment, and would also take the economy into the tank by removing millions of productive workers.
As of the 1996 census, there were only 28 million persons living in Canada. That makes the entire nation of Canada roughly equal to the state of California in population. The estimated Canadian totals for the year 2000 are 31 million people (California was estimated at 33 million in 1999, so it is actually more populous than Canada). Either way, 6.5 million felons is a significant chunk of the nation.
LUFA has urged gun owners to use telephones, email, and the post (snail mail) to flood bureaucratic offices with questions that require bureaucratic attention. LUFA estimates that 500 million Canadian dollars have already been spent on implementation of the program, after an initial government pledge that enforcement would cost no more than $85 million. More money spent, it is hoped, will put an end to C-68.
It is also hoped by LUFA that their efforts to repeal the law will succeed, thus eliminating the need for mass imprisonment (summary offenses under C-68 include up to six months in prison and a $2000 fine). To defeat C-68, LUFA will need to overturn a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada which found C-68 to be constitutional.
There are two additional elements of this story which should interest Americans. First, just as Americans have had to put up with Janet Reno's jackboots, Canadians appear equally enamored of Anne Mclellan, the Federal Justice Minister and Solicitor General. So cheer up, Americans: you're not alone.
Second, while the American media cries out for limits on campaign contributions, the Canadians have already enacted them. LUFA contends that these are merely attempts by the ruling Liberal Party to squash dissent. As reported in the Edmonton Journal, on November 10, 2000 - just two days into Al Gore's attempted election coup - the Supreme Court of Canada "struck down a decision by the Court of Queen's Bench in Alberta, upheld by the Alberta Court of Appeal, to suspend portions of the new Elections Act that placed strict spending limits on citizens and interest groups. The new law was passed in May and went into effect Sept. 1. "
According to the Edmonton Journal, the disputed provisions "limit how much citizens and interest groups can spend to promote policies or candidates. The law limits spending by third parties to $150,000 for national advertising and $3,000 in local ridings. It also requires all contributors to interest groups to be listed for the public record with Elections Canada."
If there is a better way to protect incumbents from popular discontent, short of stormtroopers, I am not sure what it is. (No wonder the American media wants campaign finance "reform"). The timing of the Canadian measure is also suspect, since it went into effect just before the November elections.
Yes, the Canadians also had an election in November. Following the disappointing showing by opposition parties, there is growing sentiment in Western Canada for secession from Ottawa. (Now if only the Alberta secessionists could sit down with the secessionists from Quebec. If they do, perhaps they can invite some Californians - after all, if California already has more people than all of Canada, what is the case against independent nationhood for California?).
Two final points. First, one wonders whether the anonymous release of two British men convicted as juveniles of abducting and murdering a toddler, James Bulger, has given Canadians cause for concern, or whether it has provoked any intelligent thought in England and Australia on firearms ownership.
A British judge ruled that the convicts' lives might be in danger if their identities were known. Accordingly, the murderers will receive new identities from the British government. Should any British media attempt to publicize information on the new identities of the murderers, they will face charges for contempt of the permanent injunction against publication issued by Judge Butler-Sloss.
Even in the UK, with its draconian press laws (at least as compared to the United States), the injunction is surprising. Talk about prior restraint.
But what has so far gone undiscussed is the risk to innocent young lives posed by two murderers who just may kill again. The Bulger case should cause the British and Australians to reevaluate their ban on gun ownership, and on pistols and revolvers in particular. It is a regrettable fact that there are murderous thugs in the world, but it is a fact nonetheless. For a thorough statistical explanation of the immense and incontrovertible social and individual benefits of personal gun ownership, see John Lott, More Guns Less Crime, and Robert Waters, The Best Defense: True Stories of Intended Victims who Defended Themselves with a Firearm.
Second, and finally, why hasn't the American media had anything to say about LUFA?
January 15, 2001
Mr. Dieteman is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
© 2001 David Dieteman