Cons shooting holes in global gun-control efforts
If you're wondering whether you've missed any gun talk thus far in the federal election, don't worry. Not a single rhetorical shot's been fired - yet.
One reason the issue is taking its time is that the Tories have put a muzzle on their gun-loving supporters in hopes of wooing urban voters with a piano-playing, cardiganed teddy bear.
But in rural areas, these Reformers in Tory blue continue to play the gun card, fanning the still seething flames of anger over the Liberal gun registry.
In one Tory election mail-out to the rural Ontario riding of Leeds-Grenville, a friendly-looking farmer is pictured beside the headline "Gun criminal, hmmmm not likely." The flyer goes on to promise the scrapping of the long gun registry.
This urban-rural mixed message parallels yet another of the Tories' duelling hypotheses - that it's possible to crack down on crime and still allow the amassing of private firearms.
They may be law-and-order freaks, but that hasn't stopped the Stephen Harper government from letting legal laggards off the hook with a general amnesty for anyone whose gun licence has lapsed, thus leaving hundreds of thousands of guns unlicensed and making the registry less accurate.
But there's such a stockpile of Tory weapon-control transgressions.
Ask the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Association of Police Boards. They're the ones who tried to push Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day to implement a quite minimalist policy requiring the stamping of all imported firearms with their country of origin.
They're still waiting. Tories just don't like (or can't be seen to like) any interference with personal firearm possession. This political deformation essentially adds up to a massive stall on discharging Canada's global obligations under the UN's Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.
The multilateral agreement, relies heavily on signatory nations containing the spread of weaponry in their own territory, since borders mean so little in the global movement of arms. Canada under the Liberals was a chief architect of the agreement and one of its most vocal champions.
Not any longer.
"Canada's slide toward ‘the American way' is noticeable at UN meetings," says Philip Alpers, a prof of public health from Sydney, Australia, who runs a global news service for gun policy researchers and is a member of New Zealand's delegation to the UN's POA meetings.
"At the UN small arms meeting in New York in July, it was apparent that since your last election Canada has soft-pedalled on any [policy] that could be seen as ‘domestic.'"
Like other delegations, Canada vocally supports and funds foreign initiatives and implementation of the UN small arms Programme of Action in Africa, Latin America and South Asia - in other words, the Rest of the World. But at home they're clearly in the clutches of the gun lobby.
"It could be seen as hypocritical for any nation to espouse tighter controls in foreign countries while loosening them at home. Canada has backtracked significantly," says Alpers.
Canada's global record of late is less than stellar, too. Late last year, the Tory government announced it was transferring 2,500 surplus C-7 automatic weapons to the Afghan National Army. If you think we have a problem keeping legal guns out of the wrong hands in Canada, imagine how messed up it is in Afghanistan, a country, according to Oxfam, that has one of the highest concentrations of guns per person in the world - as many as 10 million in a country of 23 mil.
Canadian disarmament expert Ernie Regehr says the transfer raises disturbing questions in the context of our nation's commitment to global small arms control.
"Is the Department of National Defence taking measures to assure these don't cascade down to the illicit market?" he asks. "What guarantees do we have that the C7s stay in the ANA? What inventory controls do they have?"
Under Canadian law, our military is only allowed to export automatic weapons to countries on the Automatic Firearms Country Control List. Afghanistan is not on that list.
The Tories are also doing in the international pact with their laissez-faire import/export policies on guns in and out of the U.S. According to a recent Project Ploughshares report on Canada's POA compliance, no import permit is needed to bring non-restricted firearms into the country for personal use. A firearms licence will suffice.
Let's face it, the Harper gang is not only making our streets less safe; they're also making an already volatile globe less stable. Time to decommission them, cardigans and all.