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Alberta Diary

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David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

Is political gun violence on Canada's agenda too, thanks to Stephen Harper's Conservatives?

| January 8, 2012
Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2008

Last year's North American political news cycle began horribly and tragically on this day with the attempted assassination of Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six people who had the misfortune to be standing near her when the bullets started flying. One of them was a nine-year-old girl. Another 13 people were injured in the incident.

It's hard to say whether the Canadian gun lobby or the Conservative politicians in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government who have worked so closely with it to eliminate the Canadian long-gun registry would consider Jared Lee Loughner, the mentally ill man who pulled the trigger in Tuscon that day, "a law-abiding gun owner."

Judging from Loughner's Wikipedia biography, he had had only ever been charged with possessing drug paraphernalia and defacing a stop sign. The purchase of the nine-mm Glock automatic pistol he used in the shootings seems to have been completely legal under Arizona law.

Regardless, we would all presumably agree that even if Loughner was a law-abiding gun owner up until Jan. 8, 2011, he ceased to be one the moment he started pulling the trigger that morning.

Which is precisely the problem, it is respectfully submitted, with the argument frequently touted during the Canadian debate over the national rifle and shotgun registry that "law-abiding gun owners" should not be "treated like criminals" by being subjected to regulation of their interest or registration of their weapons.

Loughner was known to hold extreme negative views on such topics as the right of women to have an abortion or to hold public office, as well believing that the U.S. government was practicing mind control, faking spaceflights, and had backed the 9-11 attacks. But such beliefs, while they are associated with the Tea Party right, are of necessity completely legal in a democracy.

Given the shooter's association with the right, a short-lived debate took place in the United States about whether the increasingly violent rhetoric of American rightists might contribute to an increase in political violence in that country. The fact that Sarah Palin, then still considered by many to be a likely Republican presidential candidate, had published her infamous "target map" of politicians disliked by the far right, including Giffords, added fuel to the fire.

Having written several critical posts on this blog about the Harper Conservatives' decision to push the elimination of the national rifle and shotgun registry, it has been interesting to observe the how crude rhetoric of the American gun lobby has found its way into our Canadian debates about Harper's adoption of National-Rifle-Association-approved policies.

Several trends stand out in the well-organized reaction to my posts:

  1. The abusive and threatening tone of many individuals in the Canadian pro-gun lobby
  2. The determination that gun owners will never again "submit" to registration laws
  3. An attempt to define reasonable restrictions on gun ownership as a form of "bigotry"
  4. A risible effort to define opposition to wide-open gun ownership as a psychiatric condition comparable to paranoia or some other diagnosable form of mental illness
  5. The apparently sincere belief that since the speaker is a law-abiding gun owner, guns aren't a problem
  6. The determination of the gun lobby, as predicted in this space, to go after Canada's restrictions on hand guns next

Anyone who makes a public statement in favour of sensible gun laws can expect this kind of reaction, of course. I doubt these messages have much impact on the attitudes of most real voters, but I believe they illustrate the true attitudes of the entity with which the Harper Conservatives have sat down to sup, and without the long spoon usually advised for such culinary experiences.

This, in turn, should raise the same concern as in the United States after the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords and the mass slaying that accompanied it. If threatening, abusive behaviour is considered reasonable political discourse by the armed right, especially in defence of wide-open firearms ownership, can actual violence be far behind?

Now, in fairness, not all responses by people who disagreed with my posts were abusive. Some -- in the form of Tweets and comments -- differed respectfully. Occasionally there was even a glimmer of humour, like the fellow who acknowledged my black-belt rank in karate and argued for a national registry of martial artists' hands and feet.

Interesting, too, that a blog with at most a few thousand readers engendered such an energetic response from gun enthusiasts. Indeed, if this keeps up, I may have to consider running ads for gun shops in order to retire profitably and early!

Much more typical, though, was the tone were the following Tweets:

- "You can have them all, right after every last one is red hot and empty, you fascist prick."

- "If you want my guns so badly, then get off ur fat ass & PERSONALLY kick my door in and take them. #fuckingloudmouthcoward…"

- "We're here. We're armed. Get used to it."

Indeed, the come-and-get-them-yourself theme was a prominent one, although one shrewd fellow noted that would-be "gun-grabbers" (quite frequently identified as "libtards") are such cowardly worms that they would prefer to send armed and uniformed police to do their dirty work. This, note, is typically in response to a call for registration of firearms. (See conspiracy theories above.)

Another popular theme in this discourse is the belief that some future government of New Democrats and/or Liberals would come to seize all the guns, which it is usually explained are needed to resist just such governments. Again, we need to ask, are such fantasies being encouraged by the Harper Conservatives, and if so are they in fact increasing the chances of actual future gun violence for political reasons?

This frequently segues into another theme popular with the gun-obsessed right: Never again, and we've got the guns to make sure.

- "We won't bow again, ever."

- "There won't be a next time sunshine. Never again will law-abiding gun owners be duped into registering long guns."

At that point, presumably, they won't be law-abiding gun owners any more either, although this thought seems not to have occurred to the people who favour this line.

Meanwhile, the bigotry theme typically takes the form of whining about people who see the need for sensible controls on weapons as being bigoted against firearms enthusiasts, as if we were all born with a Walther PPK grafted to one hand:

- "#gunregistry is hate speech dressed as law."

- "Let the fantasy of #gunregistry hate machine go. It’s gone anyhow."

This in turn gives way to the gun-right's most creative argument, that people who are "unreasonably fearful" of firearms are, in fact, crazy. They've even cooked up a name for this condition, hoplophobia. Thus:

- "A visit with mental health may help with your hoplophobia."

- "The mentally ill gun-grabbers like DJ will never be reasonable. They're lost."

Amidst this loony-tunes cacophony, one can almost feel a little sympathy with those hobbyists who plaintively seek justification in their own essentially law-abiding nature, and those of their sons, daughters and spouses with whom they enjoy potting away at things, animate or not:

- "Protect society from whom? I have been a competitive shooter for 40 years and never harmed a soul. How am I a threat?"

- "Despite the fact that I have fired several hundred thousand rounds in my many guns, not a single person has been harmed. ... No one is harmed by the typical gun owner."

Finally, in response to my post suggesting the Harper Conservatives will not be able to resist using this wedge again, was the triumphalist crowing of those who intend to encourage just that:

- "Since it's just as useless, the handgun registry should be next to go. Actually, the entire firearms act should be scrapped."

- "I assure you, this is just the beginning. Next will be decriminalization of simple posession (sic) of a firearm. Then the lame OICs will be rescinded. ATTs demolished. SAPs for grandfathered prohib owners will be issued, so they can actually take their guns to the range. Magazine limits will be scrapped. This is truly just the beginning. We make elections, we break elections…"

- "Every Canadian needs the right to bear arms."

This is the can of worms that Harper and his so-called Conservatives have opened.

Clearly, from the tone of these comments, it is fair to conclude that in addition to sincere and safety-minded hobbyists, many deeply troubled Canadians demand the right to own and use firearms and have been emboldened and encouraged by this government for short-term political gain.

We cannot assume that we not see "political" gun violence in Canada like that which happened a year ago in Arizona simply because Canadian gun owners are, as a group, more sane or more law-abiding than their U.S. counterparts.

However, if we do experience this kind of violence, we can count on our domestic "law-abiding gun owners" to deny all responsibility, and the Harper government to call for more prisons and more punishment after the preventable fact.

I am not ready to despair yet, not ready to embrace firearms as a reasonable response to the troubling mix of right-wing politics and guns, but it will be hard to put this Harperite genie back in the bottle, at least without more exemplary blood being needlessly shed.

What a pathetic state of affairs, brought to us by a deeply cynical and incompetent governing party.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.



Simply amazing the misinformation here. 

"Loughner was known to hold extreme negative views on such topics as the right of women to have an abortion or to hold public office, as well believing that the U.S. government was practicing mind control, faking spaceflights, and had backed the 9-11 attacks. But such beliefs, while they are associated with the Tea Party right, are of necessity completely legal in a democracy."

"Given the shooter's association with the right, a short-lived debate took place in the United States about whether the increasingly violent rhetoric of American rightists might contribute to an increase in political violence in that country. The fact that Sarah Palin, then still considered by many to be a likely Republican presidential candidate, had published her infamous "target map" of politicians disliked by the far right, including Giffords, added fuel to the fire."


The reality is that the guy was a lunatic, his views are not those of the Tea Party or the 'right' in the US, in fact his views are most closely associated with the left in the US. However, I don't see that as having anything to do with his crimes.

Perhaps you are just ignorant. But perhaps your statements are more than that, such as a way to demonize those you don't agree with by associating them with ideas and positions they do not have.


In any case, it is insulting and irresponsible.


Oh, and the deal with the target map. Not a big deal at all, the Democrats were the first to use that as a campaign ad. But it also had nothing to do with the shooting.


Laughner was deranged, he commited his crimes becaus of that. Not because he had a gun, or because he was a leftist conspiracy nut. And not because of the fantasy association you are trying to make with the 'right' and the tea party.

More garbage from an increasingly hysterical David Climenhaga. Here are the facts:

*C-19 leaves intact virtually all of the Firearms Act. . This includes the licensing provisions (with bizzare and invasive personal questions, background checks, etc.), ATTs for restricted firearms, and the fact that allowing one's PAL to lapse for ONE DAY makes a person an automatic criminal.

*With C-19, the seller will still have to verify that the buyer of a non-restricted firearm has a valid PAL. This includes things like 500fps+ airguns. The only difference is that the transaction will not have to go through an additional layer of red tape, from the Firearms Program (verifier). To reiterate: YOU WILL STILL NEED A P.A.L. TO BUY AN NON-RESTRICTED GUN.

*Licensing and registering firearms, under the Firearms Act, is nothing like licensing and registering cars. You can let your drivers' license lapse, and park your car in your garage. There is nothing criminal about an unregistered car ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY. However, if you let your PAL lapse, you can expect a visit from the police tactical team, as you are now in criminal posession of your own property. This subtlety is lost on socialists like Mr Climenhaga, who despise private property, and admire progressive societies like Cuba, where owning 'anti-social property' like guns is illegal.

*The U.S. Second Amendment is merely a codefied 'right' that exists in English Common Law. Just like the Forth Amendment (property rights), which Trudeau deemed too un-progressive for his vision of Canada, to include in the Charter.

*Like the old RCMP handgun registry (1935, onward), the non-restricted registry never solved, nor prevented a crime. The bloated '11,000 hits per day' cited by gun control advocates is a result of a software protocol that searches the database for everything ranging from fender-benders, to jaywalking tickets. And the $4M anual cost cited by the RCMP is completely bogus, as it doesn't even cover the Firearms Program's postage costs.

*Non-compliance with the Firearms Act has been massive, with an estimated 1/3-1/2 of LEGALLY ACQUIRED (verified through customs records) non-restricted fireams never being registered, and owners never licensed. This makes a mockery of the supposed utility of the database.

*The Chretien government disbanded the Ports Police, refused to arm border guards, and tried to close two RCMP crime labs--for cost reasons. Firearms smuggling via container ships (COSCO, Norinco), and accross the U.S. border (particularilly over reserves like Akwesasne) are the major sources of 'crime guns' in Canada, including prohibited (full-auto, short-barrelled handguns) weapons. Yet the same government blew $2B on the Firearms Act. Obviously, 'public safety at any cost' was never the point of the gun registry, and associated Firearms Act.

*On several occasions, organised crime groups have accessed the gun registry data, using them as 'shopping lists' for a series of burglaries.

*The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police supports the gun registry, because it is financially supported by registry IT contractor, CGI Group, making the CACP a paid lobby group. CGI Group was a major donor to the Chretien campaign, as well as supporting the Quebec Liberal Party. And Coalition for Gun Control maven Wendy Cukier owns a firm, Telecon Consulting, that has gun registry-related IT contracts with the RCMP and other forces.

*Cukier accepted an ILLEGAL, $380,000 lobbyist grant from then Justice Minister Allan Rock's office, thousands of which were kicked back in donations to the liberal party.

*The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA)--funded by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, and headquartered in London, England--funds gun control efforts worldwide, including Canada's Coalition for Gun Control, and Project Ploughshares. George Soros is also a major donor to Canadian, and other gun control lobbies. IANSA also 'consulted' the Liberals and NDP on gun control issues. The gun control lobby has deep pockets, and tentacles in Canada.

Mr Climenhaga should admit that the progressive vision of a socially-reengineered, disarmed Canada he clings to was firmly rejected by the majority of voters in the last Federal election. Canadians elected a government that pledged, from the outset, to get rid of discredited progressive sacred cows like the gun registry and Wheat Board, and are now following through on these campaign promises. And, yes, democracy is like private property: both are irritants to socialists.


Let us not mince words here: the people using the horrible January 8th, 2011 Tucson shooting to preach victim disarmament, are creating target rich environments for the next mass shootings. Is dancing in the blood of the victims OK if it furthers the disarmament agenda?


From: http://jpfo.org/articles-assd02/heller-terrible-day.htm


As a gun owner myself for over 20 years, and serving this country in uniform I have had the opportunity to fire some very amazing weapons that many guns owners would love to handle.  After working with such firearms daily you come to appreciate the ergonomics of military grade weapons.  If permitted to own I would, and I would use them hunting, with the advantage of lighter weight better handling than many of the traditional wooden stock weapons I grew up with.  I would love a bullpup action stock for a couple of my rifles which is prohibited but the rifle itself is not.  Infact both rifles I would put the stocks on would still comply with the minimum 26" length requirement by several inches.  I believe and fully support the lawful, safe use of firearms, but I believe recent activity towards the AP80 and G22 to be completely rash actions taken by the RCMP, similar to the TAR-21 in the past which was overturned.

Additionally many new gun owners today don't hunt at all, nor do they ever intend too.  They want more tactical guns glamorized in video games and movies but they intend to use them on the range.  Many new enthusiasts are more collectors now rather than actual sustenance hunters of the past.   Most of those guns are completely unobtainable in Canada to date.

I believe in the registry but in a different perspective.  I believe I should be able own a use a suppressor on the range.  Anyone who has spent a day at the range would appreciate the use of a suppressor for their hearing.  I believe that the ownership of suppressors shouldn't be prohibited but rather registered just like a restricted weapon without the paperwork to use it as many higher calibre rifles can accept them which aren't restricted.

There are many items I would love to own but would be an outlaw owning but would also like to see changes made that gun owner pay a tax to be a gun owner based on the class of weapons you hold and with this allow people to own what they wish.

I like the analogy that they don't outlaw alcohol and vehicles because people drink and drive.  They need to place more effort in stopping the illegal use of firearms and their importation and allow businesses to lawfully import and distribute firearms. 

I also like the analogy that not everyone drives a Lamborghini but your allowed too,  but your not allowed to put NOS in your Honda, but race your Honda on the track, not the street and it is okay.  Now with that same logic I believe there is a lot more due to the lawful, safe use of firearms (IE; Bullpup stocks, Suppressors).

Bill C-19 however eliminates that: verifying a firearm purchaser's license becomes voluntary, there are no provisions to reinstate the requirement for business to keep records of firearm sales, and a tool widely used by police to remove guns from dangerous or suicidal people is removed. Canada will become an unrestrained free market for guns, just like the United States.

Bisho69. Since you quoted the hearings, then you would have also heard that your assertion that checking licences of purchasers is ABSOLUTELY FALSE. That means you are lying. It was made clear SEVERAL TIMES selling a firearm to an unlicensed individual is jail time. It was also made clear that venders MUST keep records. That's also a lie on your part. Which means your fearmongering comparing us to the US is also unfounded and a deliberate lie. Why is it you socialists must continue to lie about everything to get your way? Because the truth hurts your cause. What you do not realize is that people like you who are dangerous to society, not us firearm owners.

While an interesting read, this article misses the real issue of gun control. Sadly, the debate has largely devolved into a screaming match between the extremes at both ends. On one side there are those who believe that everyone should have a machine gun and a bazooka on their bedside table and view any infringement of that 'right' as an extreme oppression (too much John Wayne for my tastes and likely unsafe). On the other are those who are really paranoid of firearms and are ultimately seeking prohibition in the naive hope that this will stop the crazies and the criminally bent from arming themselves (a hope on par with believing in Santa - just ask the British how well it worked for them). While these two groups hurl emotionally charged epithets at each other, the actual issue of gun control - what laws or regulations are necessary for a safe and orderly country with a minimum of violence is ignored. There is no reasoned debate. Frankly, I doubt either side really wants a have a reasoned debate - the zealots on each side would have to calm down and think to do it.

David, your post is decisively biased. 


1) Your ASSUMPTION that Harper is behind the gun lobby movement, as if we have no brains of our own.  Rest assure, we get no orders from anyone.  This is how we feel.

2) your use of the word "weapons".  None of us own any weapons.  Weapons are used to harm someone.  They could be anything, from a baseball bat, to your kitchen knife, to a gun.  What we own as FIREARMS.  NOT weapons.  But you use the term weapons as a fear factor for your readers.  Socialists are notorious for inventing fear by using weasel words, just like you did.

3) the example at the beginning, then claiming the criminal was a "perfectly normal person" by the picture you painted, then gets extrapolated to EVERYONE who owns a firearm.  Thus we get blamed guilt by association. 


I have some questions back at you.


1) how come the Swiss can be have government issued firearms (rifles and pistols) yet their government trusts their people, but you do not trust Canadians?  Maybe the fear you people have for firearms and their owners would not exist if everyone was required to take firearm safety courses and learn to shoot properly.  Maybe things would be must better if, like in Switzerland, everyone was armed by the government.  Do your arguments against us having firearms also apply to the Swiss?  (Many of whom in Canada are also armed with government issued firearms).  Are we less trustworthy than the Swiss?

2) One has to question you're a priori fear of firearms owners.  You question that we do not need firearms to protect us from governments.  The question becomes interesting because it begs the question, what are your plans for Canada which would make Canadian's get up in arms about?  Without that fear of us your fear is totally unfounded.


Your entire tone has only one interpretation, one which you did not mention.  Your tone is one of complete confiscation, and if not complete, a large list of prohibited firearms such as all handguns and all semi-autos.  Will you come clean with this.

I'm a little confused as to what the author is trying to say... First is it the possibility that by removing the long gun registry there will be another nut bar like in Tuscon?  Or is he simply using this as a platform for Harper bashing?

4612 firearms removed from individuals is meaningless, when you consider that most were seized in anti-gun programs like Toronto's "Safe City' where the police used an old copy of the registry to take firearms from legal owners who's only crime was letting their licence become dated.  When you request information regarding the number of firearms subsequently returned, to legal owners, thay 4612 dwindles into nothing.

It has become apparent that the registry is simply a tool for the least mentally stable neighbor can use to punish the firearms owner next door... You know... he's got guns officer... I'm skeeert, he may go all whacko... please take them away.. he kinda threatened me...

Basically, the firearms act was created to cause such an obstacle and so difficult for owners that they would give up rather than comply.  Regretably the situation and legislation caused the entire community to band together and become a political forcewhich demands that their values be heard.

Davey, it truely is unfortunate that you got some nasty comments during your foray into the pro firearms blogs/websites, however, if you posted anything similar to what was in this article, I expect it would result in a bitter response.


Excellent obsevations and post Mr. Climenhaga. If I might add, another consistant attitude and frequent comment is that since 'they' know and understand guns and 'we' don't, 'they' are suddently Health and Safety experts and know better than the Police and RCMP when it comes to public safety. AND, their consistent and common 'fact' is that we don't know the facts and they do even though there is clear data on the gun registry pulished by the RCMP.


A total of 4,612 registered firearms were removed from the possession of individuals whose licenses were revoked due to public safety concerns between October 31, 2008 and January 4, 2011 as reported by the Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in response to a question in the House of Commons.[i] The reasons for revocation due to public safety concerns included: reported prohibition or court order, 3,887; reported potential risk to others, 547; reported potential risk to self, 399; reported unsafe firearms use and storage, 224; reported violence, 198; reported drug offences, 15; and providing false information, 3. 


Bill C-19 however eliminates that: verifying a firearm purchaser's license becomes voluntary, there are no provisions to reinstate the requirement for business to keep records of firearm sales, and a tool widely used by police to remove guns from dangerous or suicidal people is removed. Canada will become an unrestrained free market for guns, just like the United States.


[i] Toews, Vic. (2011) in Edited Hansard, 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, Number 145, Monday, March 21, 2011: www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=5039495&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3&Language=E#SOB-3812886



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