© 1995 Karen Selick
Go Ahead, Make O
The Gun Control Laws--Portents of Tyranny

An edited version of this article first appeared in the March, 1995 issue of Fraser Forum.  If you wish to reproduce this article, click here for copyright info.


    The Gun Control Laws--Portents of Tyranny

    Canadian gun owners appear to fall into three distinct categories, if the reaction of the Liberal government and most of the Canadian media is any indication.
    First, there are target-shooters and hunters, who simply want to preserve their sports.  Their arguments against gun control are given a brief hearing, they are patted on the head and called responsible law-abiding citizens, and then they're told to comply with the proposed new laws early.

     Then there are those who believe that privately owned guns are useful in deterring crimes like burglaries.  Their arguments are usually just steamrolled over with the patently false rejoinder that the police can handle this sort of thing, or the irrelevant observation that Canadians don't want to become like Americans (no, we'd rather be dead, apparently).

    Finally, there are those who argue that firearms should be owned by private citizens to keep democratic governments from thinking totalitarian thoughts.  This group is generally dismissed as simply fanatical or paranoid.  Such a thing could never happen in Canada, we are assured.

    "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" said some wise men in the past--not just Thomas Jefferson, but Demosthenes, back in about 322 B.C.  Unfortunately, Canadians of the 1990s seem to have lost the habit of vigilance.  They are unable to recognize the seeds of authoritarianism even when they are right before their eyes.  Ironically, several portents of encroaching tyranny come wrapped around the very tool that could help usher tyranny in:  Justice Minister Alan Rock's proposed gun control legislation.

    One of the hallmarks of a totalitarian government is the use of the Big Lie.  Tell the people whatever you think they want to hear, then do whatever you please. 

    Mr. Rock's big lie is this:  our government has "no intention of confiscating any legally owned guns."  He proclaims this boldly and repeatedly, even as he unveils leglislation that will do exactly the opposite.  Sure, he can easily make it look as though his promise has been kept--just reclassify legal weapons as illegal and then confiscate them.

    In fact, this is precisely what his proposed legislation will do.  It will classify weapons which were formerly unrestricted or restricted into the prohibited category.  Current owners of such guns will be allowed to keep possession of them, but will not be allowed to sell them, trade them, or give them away, even by bequest in their wills.  They will probably not be allowed to use them (at the time of writing, Mr. Rock has spoken out of both sides of his mouth on this point).  Upon the death of the current owner, the guns will be seized.

    If someone said that the land registry office would continue to show your name as owner of your house, but that you couldn't sell it, trade it, leave it to your heirs when you die, and perhaps not even live in it, you would probably conclude that your house had just been confiscated.  Only the collection procedure would have been postponed.

    It is the right to dispose of property--to convert it to another form--and not merely the right to possess it, that is the distinguishing characteristic of ownership.  If the proposed legislation passes, the former owners of such guns will be no more the owners of their weapons than library users are of the books they borrow.  They will have a temporary right of possession, but not of ownership.  This is confiscation, and it flies in the face of Mr. Rock's rhetoric.

    A second hallmark of the totalitarian state is paternalism--a conviction on the part of the rulers that they know better than you do what's good for you, and a determination to force it on you despite your objections.  There is paternalism aplenty in the gun control proposals. 

    Approximately 80 percent of all firearms deaths in Canada each year are suicides, while another 5 percent are accidents.  Mr. Rock claims his measures will reduce these death rates.

    Yet any individual who is concerned about suicide or accidents within his home already has it within his power to take the same or even more strict preventive measures.  We can make our homes "gun-free zones" if we choose.  A majority of Canadian already have. 

    Surely we can be trusted to care about ourselves and our families more than Mr. Rock does.  If some Canadians choose to take the risk of having guns in their homes, it must be because they value other things--the pleasure of sport shooting, the right to defend themselves, or the power to deter tyrants--more highly than they fear the risk of suicide or accidents.  Mr. Rock may not share this ranking of values, but in that case he should simply choose to keep his own home free of guns.  He need not make the whole country march in lock-step by imposing his alternative value ranking on everyone else. 

    The Liberal government is reportedly considering a bill to legalize assisted suicide in the wake of Sue Rodriguez's campaign.  How hypocritical, how patronizing it is for them to suggest simultaneously that we need them to protect us from our own potential suicides.

    A third indicator of totalitarianism is the rulers' refusal to recognize that citizens have certain inviolable rights which exist independently of, rather than flowing from, the state.  Mr. Rock continually attempts to distance the Canadian debate from that of the United States, where the right to own guns is explicitly recognized in the constitution. 

    He announces arrogantly, "We will....ban the further sale of most handguns because we have determined they have no legitimate sporting purpose."  He tells dissenters, "This is not an invitation for further discussion.  This is final." 

    It seems clear that Canadians' rights will be whatever Mr. Rock decides they will be.  The thought that this legislation might violate rights never seems to cross his mind.  He apparently believes that the state is the source of its citizens' rights.

    He point repeatedly to public opinion polls as justification for what he is doing.  The inference is: might makes right.  The tyranny of the majority is okay with him.

    Mr. Rock promises gun owners that universal registration will not be simply a prelude to complete confiscation.  Maybe he can persuade Canadians that the current government will keep this promise, but he cannot vouch for its successors in perpetuity.  Canadians should keep in mind that it was the democratic Weimar Republic that enacted gun registration in Germany in 1928, but it was Hitler who later took advantage of the records to seize the weapons of Jews, gypsies and other perceived enemies of the Third Reich.

    Another wise man said,  "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  Canadians who fear gun control may be neither fanatics nor paranoids.  They may just be students of history.

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March 3, 2003