Writing in the Globe and Mail, Jefrey Simpson compares the debate over the proposed extinction of Canada’s long gun registry to America’s perennial hot potato. “The long-gun registry is to Canadian politics what abortion is to U.S. politics: an issue that will not go away, divides people into entrenched camps, defies compromise and defines the way adherents of both positions view themselves in the wider society.” As serious as that? “It’s an issue that pits rural Canada against urban Canada, splits the Liberals and NDP, and, relative to all the other more useful discussions the country could have about tackling crime, occupies far too much time and leads to excessive rhetoric.” So, no, really. Although Simpson’s pro-registry, anti-Conservative position’s no real mystery, he does a pretty good job to-ing and fro-ing. And then, THEN, he drags those horrible gun-clinging Yanks into the debate . . .
For some, being a Canadian means opposing guns in almost any hands but those of the police. It’s a Canadian definitional question: We abhor guns and want them tightly regulated, unlike those crazed, lawless Americans with their National Rifle Association, Second Amendment nuttiness and high homicide rate.
For others, the right to bear a long gun (or to keep it in a cupboard or pickup) is a right to be left alone, a cry of defiance from an area of dwindling population, a right to be respected as a responsible person without the state having to say so, to hunt within the bounds of the law, to resist further incursion by the state into the private realm of citizens. It’s “us” – the law-abiding owners – against “them,” defined as bureaucrats, “experts,” city-slickers, lefties and people who wouldn’t know how to aim, let alone fire, a gun.
Simpson proposes no solution. But he promises plenty of posts!
For both sides, the registry takes on a moral hue, underscoring what kind of society Canada should be. As such, the registry has been burdened with a symbolism it was never intended to bear. When morality meets symbolism, issues seldom go away, since the temporary losers of today do not accept the finality of their political defeat.
Question: who’s symbolism is this anyway?