A lot of ink has been spent discussing the Canadian Long Gun Registry. The term long guns covers rifles and/or shotguns in Canada. Pistols are covered under another act, and have been considered restricted weapons for years, making legal pistol ownership very rare in Canada. If you check National News Watch you’ll find a lot of Long Gun Registry articles. Buy any newspaper almost any day, and there will be at least one article, and probably editorial content as well.
In many ways the issue isn’t whether the Long Gun Registry actually does what it is supposed to do. Proponents and Opponents are tossing numbers all over the place, and as Mark Twain is reputed to have said, ‘Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.’ No, the real issue is the change of Canada’s social landscape caused by the migration from country to city, and it has changed immensely in the last fifty years.
When I was a kid, we all had guns. And I mean everybody. We had them. Our neighbors on all sides had them. When we went into town we meet people that my dad hunted with, who had them.
If we went to Toronto things were different. Toronto, the ‘Big Smoke’ or ‘Hogtown’ as it was less than affectionately known, was different. At the time it and Montreal were the only large cities in Ontario. In 1951 the population of Toronto hit 1,000,000, and by 1970 it had doubled to 2,000,000. For most people who lived in Toronto, hunting wasn’t a recreation. Using a gun for target shooting wasn’t a recreation either, unless you were rich enough to be able to afford joining a shooting club. Some were of course, but the average Torontoian wasn’t.
The city/country divide got wider as Toronto’s population rose further. The surrounding communities also grew. Thirty years ago it was still possible to hunt in Mississauga. Now you’d be hard put to find a plot of virgin land. The other communities surrounding Toronto grew as well. In the Township of Markham where we lived, Dad used to go hunting all of the time. Now, well, houses have covered most of the farmland, and most of the forests have been cut down.
The easy familiarity we Canadians once had with long guns is long gone. Even those who live in the country, at least in the southern part of Ontario, often have no experience with them. In the north though, gun ownership is still common.
Thus we have conflict. Most southern Ontario residents are terrified of guns. They don’t know how to handle them (except for those few who do hunt, or have served in the military or police). Those who grew up like I did, or live in the north, look at them in disbelief.
The conflict between country and city is in effect a conflict over behavior. You can’t safely shoot a gun in many municipalities. There’s just too much chance of hitting something or someone that you aren’t aiming at.
I don’t know if the Long Gun Registry is necessary or not. I do know that both sides in the debate seem more interested in lying, accusations, and political grandstanding, than in the best interests of the Canadian public.
A plague on both their houses.
Thursday September 2, 2010