Let’s not forget gun registry’s origins
NationalPost.com – Opinion/Full Comment
September 17, 2010. Peter Kuitenbrouwer
John Baird is one of the most quick-witted of the Tory Cabinet ministers; he even impersonated Elvis Presley last fall at Maple Leaf Gardens (where the King once sung) when his government poured $20-million into rebuilding the arena for Loblaws and Ryerson University. This week, Mr. Baird was at it again, summing up the pro-gun registry people as “Toronto elites.”
It’s a brilliant turn of phrase, especially since both Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader, and Jack Layton, the NDP leader, represent Toronto ridings. In blasting “Toronto elites,” Mr. Baird is playing to the Tory base; it is quite possible that this kind of blanket attack will buy votes in, say, Prince George, where one of my sisters lives.
But underneath that, it is a cheap and divisive phrase — not the kind of language that most Canadians seek from their leaders.
Far from being the brain child of Toronto elites or any other elites, the gun registry movement came out of Montreal, after a vindictive thug turned a Sturm Ruger Mini-14 hunting rifle on students at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique.
I was at the Polytechnique that night, Dec. 6, 1989. I had been finishing my shift in the Montreal Gazette radio room when a cacophony of voices crackled over the police radio: “zero-zero-un” (murder), “zerocinq-quatre” (armed suspect). The police pleaded for officers to head to the Universite de Montreal. A photographer and I drove around to the back of the mountain, where the school sprawls.
The snow fell in thick gobs, blanketing the sides of Mount Royal. With police cruisers blocking approaches, we trudged up the hill to find a row of ambulances outside the school.
Later that night I stood in the university’s ceremonial central hall, a room of tall ceilings and dark corners and trappings of Catholic grandeur, amid a crowd of shell-shocked reporters with more arriving all the time, from The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Long past midnight the police spokesman came in and told us, in French: “We have 14 dead. They are all women.” I turned to Marie-Claude Lortie, a colleague from La Presse, and we hugged, briefly and silently, to try to ease our pain.
The pain of parents and survivors of Marc Lepine’s murderous rampage brought us the long-gun registry.
Has the registry, a creation of the Progressive Conservatives, failed us? Has it cost us billions, without making us more safe? Does the government have a better plan to keep guns out of the hands of madmen? Then by all means, bring it on. But let us have no more small, vindictive slurs aimed not at concern for the vulnerable but motivated by a desire to divide Canada just enough to win a slim majority government.
Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister, himself grew up in Toronto. He knows who lives in Toronto, and he knows in his heart that Torontonians, like his parents, simply wish for a strong, unified and safe country in which to raise their families.
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