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Killing the gun registry: It's about the Conservatives' deeply cynical politics, not about waste

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Victor Toews, Minister of Public Endangerment

If you need evidence of the malice and cynicism behind the Stephen Harper government's determination to scrap the national rifle and shotgun registry, you need look no further than its refusal to pass the information already collected to provinces like Quebec that are prepared to carry on the job of protecting the public.

From Day 1 of this debate until literally today, the Conservative line has been that the registry was a waste of taxpayers' money and a burden on law-abiding gun owners and therefore ought to be shut down.

Tory toadies like the so-called Canadian Taxpayers Federation -- about which it cannot be said too many times does not represent the interests of taxpayers, this issue being yet another glaring example -- have dutifully parroted this line.

But by their actions you shall know them, and by their actions we can see that their claim is baloney of a particularly unhealthy variety.

Yes, the registry did cost far too much when it was set up by the Liberals, although, those costs having been paid, it was relatively inexpensive to operate. So, given all that water under the proverbial bridge, why not give the data collected at such great expense to the police agencies and provincial governments that want it?

Well, as is so often the case with the Harper government, the positions it takes have little to do with the facts. In this case, Manitoba's Victor Toews -- the federal minister with the Orwellian title of Minister of Public Safety, which apparently in reality means Minister of Public Endangerment -- has made it clear there's no way on God's green earth he'll provide this information to the provinces and police departments that want it. It's all to be destroyed.

At least in this case the Conservatives aren't so much lying about the facts as merely ignoring them. Mr. Toews (pronounced Taves) passed right over justifying this crazy decision, flatly stating "we won't have those records loose and capable of creating a new long-gun registry should they ever have the opportunity to do that."

Hell no! A life might be saved, depriving the Tories of an opportunity to stir up public panic about crime!

In fact, this crusade by the Tories has never been about wasted tax dollars -- that's a laugh and a half from a government willing to piss our tax dollars away on unneeded F-35 stealth fighters that will have to patrol our northern skies in stately silence without bazillions more in radio repairs as their cost soars to $35 billion and beyond.

And this campaign has never been about the facts -- another laugh from a government that wants to spend $10 billion or more building super prisons to fight a declining crime rate by jailing recreational drug users, and to send young offenders to prison for long stretches in the face of evidence that this will make our streets less safe.

No, to this government the long-gun registry was a wedge issue and nothing more than a wedge issue.

A "wedge issue" is political shorthand for a social or economic issue that divides the core supporters of a particular political party. If you're a Conservative, say, and you can use a wedge issue to push people who would normally vote for the NDP to vote for you, or not to vote at all, you've driven a wedge into your opponents' support.

The Conservatives long ago concluded that registration of rifles and shotguns was a wedge that could break the traditional voting habits of rural NDP supporters, especially in Northern Ontario where the registry was seen as a nuisance by many.

With the NDP now forming the official Opposition, the urge to stick with such dangerous and unethical tactics is likely to be impossible for the Harperistas to control -- hence their determination to string this issue out.

That said, it's hard to understand the hysteria with which the registry was opposed in some circles, since, after all, it was only a registry. We seldom hear conspiracy theories from car owners that being required to license and register their automobiles means a government conspiracy is afoot to seize their wheels. It's almost enough to tempt one to indulge in certain common pop psychology theories about what really motives the screeching anger and drooping logic of the gun-fetishist set.

Be that as it may, there's a real danger here because, egged on by the hydrophobic rage of the gun nuts that apparently comprise a significant segment of the Harper Conservative base, it is quite possible they will try to keep the issue alive by proposing to make it easier to own weapons that only exist to kill humans -- handguns, fully automatic assault rifles and who knows what else. Bazookas?

Leastways, if this is not true -- as some of their supporters are certain to instantly allege -- let's hear an unequivocal statement from the Harperites to that effect right now!

Regardless, the Harper government's refusal to retain and pass on the data already collected to urban police forces -- a decision that will certainly result in the deaths of innocent citizens and police officers -- is indefensible and immoral. In other words, pretty much what we'd expect from this deeply cynical government.

We owe it to our fellow citizens to track every one of these needless future deaths -- and to assign the blame exactly where it belongs.

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

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