By Tony Bernardo
The shooting sports have been a casualty of political deception for many years, and this black mark on freedom of choice affects all Canadians whether you own guns or not.
The firearms debate has become a political football during the current election campaign. As anti-firearms advocates try to draw a straight line between “gun control” and public safety, the interests of sport shooters have been torn asunder. Canada enjoys a rich history of heritage activities and millions of sport shooters, hunters, trappers, prospectors and farmers use firearms as tools of the trade.
Firearms have secured our freedom from oppression and they have brought home Olympic medals. Yet somehow, our heritage activities have been tarred with the same brush as criminals who use guns to monstrous effect. As a result, governments and police have created regulations that affect the law abiding, but sadly, do not affect criminals.
The Canadian Shooting Sports Association held its Annual General Meeting in London, Ontario on April 16. Our volunteer board members and regional representatives include dedicated doctors, scientists, police, teachers, and professionals from many walks of life. Past governments have created so-called gun control laws that only affect sport shooters, in the hopes that Canadians will be lulled into believing they are being protected. For example, the controversial long-gun registry is advertised as keeping us safe and somehow protecting women from potential assailants. It does neither, but that doesn’t stop many organizations from endorsing it in a concerted effort to sway public confidence and support at the ballot box.
The federal opposition parties have not listened to us when we explain that they are missing their intended target. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff recently reiterated, “…the best memorial is strict, relentless gun control.” Long before Mr. Ignatieff joined the party, his predecessors have been working to eradicate guns in Canada. The law-abiding might surrender their firearms to authorities, but the criminals won’t. Instead, legislators should be advocating against the criminal use of firearms, which is a sentiment we share with them. The record will show that we have zero tolerance for misusing firearms.
Is it an inconvenience for sport shooters to register a gun? Not really, but we know it does create a shopping list for computer hackers who want to find out where we live. The RCMP have admitted the registry has been hacked more than 300 times. We have no idea if organized crime lords have a list with our names on it. If they do, the police gave it to them and it only cost Canadians a couple of billion dollars to do it. Not coincidentally, the registry will also come in handy if certain political parties successfully ban gun ownership outright and the police want to confiscate our property. We all know how well that has worked out in other regimes. It is even more chilling to realize that all opposition parties and many police organizations have promised that widespread confiscation in Canada is their goal. How is this fair to the millions of sport shooters?
If the shooting sports are so dangerous, how is it that our association members can purchase $5 million dollars worth of personal liability insurance for just $10 a year? Insurance underwriters know that we are ardent devotees of safety. A shooting range is one of the safest places in the world because we make it that way. Yet we are ostracized because guns can be used to harm others. When someone is hurt or killed with a baseball bat, do the police kick in the Blue Jays’ dressing room door? When someone is harmed with a knife (which happens far more often than a gun), do the government and media point fingers at the neighbourhood butcher? If you don’t believe it’s the same thing, please think again. Our shooting ranges are being closed by municipal governments and gun ownership is becoming so onerous, potential gold medallists are abandoning their passion.
While our association remains politically agnostic, we support the only federal party that supports our sport. For many years, the Conservative Party of Canada has been alone in expressing interest in freedom for responsible firearms owners.
We find it specially distasteful that several opposition members of Parliament supported Bill C-391 at 2nd reading to scrap the gun registry in November 2009, and then reversed their decision in September 2010 to kill the bill. This is blatant abandonment of their constituent’s wishes – these M.P.s had campaigned on scrapping the registry and then flipped their vote to appease their party leaders. We can only hope voters in those flip-flop ridings pause in the ballot booth on May 2nd and simply ask: “Has my M.P. ever lied to me?” There is but one answer. With conscience clear, they can repay their M.P. with unemployment.
In the meantime, we need Canadians to recognize that sport shooters are not the enemy. Please stop treating us like we are.
Tony Bernardo is the Executive Director of the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action and the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA). The CSSA is the voice of sports shooters and firearms advocates in Canada. Membership supports and promotes traditional target shooting competition, modern action shooting sports, hunting and archery. The CSSA support and sponsor competitions and youth programs that promote these Canadian heritage activities.