Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The pundits, the gun registry and "law-abiding duck hunters and farmers"

What separates a good pundit from a bad one is 1) the ability to unpack and critique political talking points, 2) a willingness to step back from politics and assess an issue honestly and 3) an abhorrence of political boiler plate. Pundits are not extensions of political parties -- or least they should not be.

This summer Canada's pundits have done a pretty good job. They ruthlessly mocked the Conservatives census talking points and did not pay much heed to the Liberals had to say on the subject. The Liberals deserved to be ignored and the Conservatives laughed at.

Enter the "long gun registry". The long time Liberal talking point about the gun registry being used by police x time of times a day is pretty thin gruel and the pundits have long be right to ask where is the beef. That said, this is no reason to leave the various Conservatives talking points virtually untouched and that is exactly what has happened over the years. For starters there is no reason for letting the Conservatives talk about a "long gun registry". There is but one registry -- a gun registry.

More substantively, consider the following talking point.

Stephen Harper:
"Canadians have been very clear. They want us to spend our time and our money focusing on the criminal misuse of firearms and not going after law-abiding duck hunters and farmers."

Pundits have rightly noted that while it costs around 3 million a year to register long guns, had the Conservatives continued to collect monies for these guns (about 15 million annually), then there would be no cost to tax paper whatsoever. They have also noted despite the gun registry's 1 billion dollar price tag, saying these cost overruns justify dumping any part of the gun registry now is akin to saying the gazebo in Tony Clement's riding should be blown up because the Conservatives spent 1.3 Billion on a three day conference . It makes no sense.

However to leave at that is not enough. After all, the number of legal gun owners in Canada, is huge (just over 2 million) and as with any large population certain predictions can be made about their future behavior. One thing we can know for sure is that a sizable number of "law-abiding duck hunters and farmers" in absolute terms will be convicted of a crime sometime in the future and that an equal or greater number will develop a mental disorder that will render them unsuitable for gun ownership.

Between 1999 and 2008 22,523 licenses refused or revoked. By having "law-abiding duck hunters and farmers" register their firearms, authorities can ensure that guns, owned by "duck hunters and farmers" who are no longer fit to own a gun, are properly disposed of. A gun license only indicates that person has the right to own a firearm. It does not tell the cops whether someone actually owns a gun or how many guns they might have. In sum, the gun registry helps keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Indeed between November 2008 and April 2009, the police seized about 3600 registered guns. Based on their rhetoric, the registry is therefore something Conservatives should support not oppose.

Furthermore, as it allows guns to be traced back to their last legal owner, the registry makes illegal sales and straw purchases more difficult and so helps keep "law-abiding duck hunters and farmers" honest. "Studies have shown that in the US, states with both licensing and registration (versus one or the other) had fewer guns diverted from legal to illegal markets."

Finally, the pundits can no longer be so concerned with only what the political parties have to say on the subject and so miss the guy in gorilla suit. Suicide is at the center of the academic debate about gun control and one can not ignore it and still remain credible. A significant number of "law-abiding duck hunters and farmers" and their family members in absolute terms use long guns to commit suicide.


WesternGrit said...

Great post Koby.

ridenrain said...

It looks like a good pundit is one that you agree with.
From the poll:
Two-in-five Canadians (43%) believe the registry has been unsuccessful in preventing crime in Canada, while three-in-ten (29%) think it has had no effect on crime. Only 13 per cent of respondents believe the Canadian Firearms Registry has been successful.

Koby said...

Thanks Western Grit.


Ha ha. That is your argument.

More people in the US believe that evolution is false than believe it true, but surely that is not good reason to let the Stockwell Day's of the world to dicate what is taught in science class.

ridenrain said...

No one gets a vote in evolution but they do with the gun registry, and most come down either against it or dismissive of it. You saw the polls and you know this but your party needs to keep this ideological boondoggle alive.

Koby said...

"and most come down either against it or dismissive of it."

I suppose your gut told you that.

You might just be hungry though.

"The Canadian Press Harris-Decima indicates that 48 per cent of respondents thought it would be a bad idea to get rid of the registry, up from 42 per cent in April and 41 per cent last November."

"About 38 per cent thought it should be scrapped, down from 45 per cent in April and 46 per cent last November"

Scraping the registry is real winner with women, high income earners, those with university degrees and Quebecers. By the way, it is safe to assume that those who want to keep it want to keep it because they think it works.

ben.benson said...

I usually am here to support you and agree with you. But I'm one of those independents who likes guns. And you appear to be on a tear on the subject as I've now read 3 posts from you on the subject.

First, your other anti-gun posts are all about how liberals don't have a good series of talking points on this issue. You, also don't appear to have good talking points on the issue. And statements like this, By the way, it is safe to assume that those who want to keep it want to keep it because they think it works, fail very basic knowledge of psychology. Many people are unversed in a topic and don't care about it(a point you made in another of your posts). When they are in that situation they will defer to not changing anything that has been done because they don't know or care to learn why it should be changed. To presume that people don't want to change something and that therefore they believe it is right is not a good idea.

Now here's the important part of my rebuttal. The liberals are out of power and you are now focusing on an issue that is a special interest group issue. It's an emotional issue for both sides, but statistically speaking it's not an issue that most people actually care about. So at a time when everyone wants to hear what you're doing about jobs, liberals are bitching about guns. At a time when guns aren't a part of the top 10 causes of death, liberals are bitching about guns. It's an emotional issue, but being unemployed and broke is a more emotional issue than the possible threat of harm from a gun.

Frankly, the smart thing for liberals to do is completely ignore the gun issue and concentrate on the things people really do care about and want them to work on. Bringing up gun control never gets the majority excited, especially when they're broke.