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Sep-18-2010 23:12printcomments

Political Smoke and Mirrors

Illusions play too big of a role in today's politics.

Smoke and Mirrors
Eileen Quinlan, Smoke & Mirrors #18, 2005, Courtesy of the artist and Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York

(GOLD RIVER, B.C.) - Sometimes political arguments amaze me. Listening to debate on certain issues makes one wonder whatever happened to logic and reason. Perhaps those things are no longer taught in the schools, or maybe the will to win a point is stronger than common sense for many people.

In either event the net result is a dumbing down of society and the attendant poor results that are liable to come from the political process.

One could make this argument using the Tea Party silliness in the US where hordes of people are being manipulated with fear and half truths to the benefit of a system that exploits them.

However, closer to home in Canada there are two recent issues that are worth noting in this regard. One is the carbon tax folly in BC that flared up a couple of years ago and is still simmering. Another is the never ending struggle by some to ban firearms from the country. At the root of the carbon tax issue lies the officially unstated, even unrecognized, problem that human society has out grown its living space and has become a cancer in the global web of life.

The over use of carbon fuel is but one symptom of this problem, a symptom that many scientists agree is connected to human activity.

Debate on the relevance of this problem aside, the method put forward by many economists and the BC government was one the defies logic.

Who knows what motivated the economists and the environmentalists who suckered in to the plan? But, what motivated the BC government was to appear to deal with a problem while at the same time protecting the economic interests of the corporations that fund them.

A paltry tax on carbon at the user end is a joke, even a higher tax would be insufficient as it allows for choice and makes for variable and uncertain results in an area where exact and certain results are required.

An honest and logical approach to limiting carbon emissions would be to directly limit the amount of carbon fuel available for use through controls on extraction of coal, oil and gas, on imports and refining and sales of same.

This of course would raise the issue of fairness which would then bring up the issue of rationing and price controls. And, it would stop growth in the carbon fuel industries as well as reduce economic activity and thus profits related to or dependent upon those industries.

The corporate world did not buy the BC government to do something like that.

And the BC government is not going to cooperate with environmental groups that do not buy into their carbon tax scam. So, we get lots of hype divorced from reality on a program meant to pacify people, not help them.

When it comes to firearms there is no doubt in a rational and progressive society that there needs to be some safe guards, and those safe guards need to be effective.

Unfortunately in Canada the issue has moved from safe and effective possession and use to the realm of fear and fantasy.

The current issue over the registration of long guns is a case in point. The history of gun control in the country has been one of moving from one justification to another as each proceeding one is demolished.

Now, according to the proponents of the registry, long guns seem to be a major threat to society and a registry will help cure the problem. We are told that supporting the registry is supporting safety for women.

Statistics are presented out of context to make this and other supporting points.

The first thing missed in arguments for the registry is that the amount of injury caused by long guns relative to other preventable causes is less and the question arises if spending any amount of money on the registry can be justified over spending it elsewhere where there is a better chance of reducing harm.

Spousal homicides over the past decade or so (based on 2006 data) have been less than 100 per year, with the majority of victims being women. Less than a third of these homicides were committed with firearms.

This holds true for all homicides in Canada.

In addition, handguns, which are far more regulated than long guns, count for sixty percent or more of firearm related homicides.

The incidence of homicide with long guns is relatively small.

Another thing missed is the role of alcohol. Alcohol is responsible for far more preventable injury in Canada than firearms, and no doubt some of the firearm statistics really have more to do with the use of alcohol than firearms.

If we were to factor out the firearm incidences directly related to the consumption of alcohol the number would probably drop even more.

The pro-registration argument likes to cite dropping homicide rates as proof that the registration is working.

However, there is no real proof that the two are related. Homicide rates have been dropping for over thirty years, even before any long gun registry. There is also the misleading argument that the police support the registry.

No doubt some do, but not all.

There has been a survey showing thousands do not. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police support the registry, too, but not all Chiefs of Police.

Said support is also subject to political pressure, and it is alleged that the Association receives financial support from the company that is the software contractor for the gun registry.

The argument is also made that the registry is accessed thousands of times a day. So what. That does not tell us what effect, if any, such access has on reducing firearm violence.

In fact it does not tell us even if the access was related to firearms at all or just another way to get information on an individual.

Good police will use every tool that they have to get information, that does not necessarily mean that the tool is serving its intended purpose, or that some other tool won't do the job as well or better.

Another argument made to support the registry is that we license automobiles, why not guns. But registering automobiles is conditional.

If it sits in your garage or on your farm and is not used in public, you do not have to license it. If the two were comparable the registry would only be for firearms to be used in public. That is not the case.

The biggest supporter of the registry is irrational fear, that is fear out of all proportion to the danger posed by long guns. The arguments of the pro-registry side that lack real concrete connection to any specific amount of harm reduction that can be proven makes this clear.

Since the given reasons for the registry are full of holes, and since a well designed possession and user licensing program would meet all of the stated reasons for having a registry, and do it more effectively, and get much wider support, one wonders what lies behind this push for registration.

In the case of the long gun registry, as in the carbon tax folly, we have real problems being evaded by smoke and mirrors for political purposes. Sadly many are taken in by the illusions presented.

Jerry West grew up on a farm in Fresno County, California, and served with the US Marine Corps from 1965 to 1970 including 19 months in Vietnam with the Third Marine Division, and three years at MCAS Iwakuni where he became an anti-war organizer in 1970. He earned an Honors Degree in History at the University of California, Berkeley, and did two years of graduate study there. While in university he worked seasonally in fire and law enforcement with the US Forest Service.

After university he worked for a number of years in the international tour industry in operations and management before moving to a remote village on the west coast of Vancouver Island where he is currently the editor and publisher of The Record newspaper serving the Nootka Sound region. He is a Past President of the Northern California Land Trust, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

You can email Jerry West, Writer, at:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Leslea September 21, 2010 4:26 pm (Pacific time)

As a Canadian and as a firearms owner, I can only say KUDOS. Well written, concise and on point. Precisely what the pro-registry baloney fails to do time and time again. And when they fail to convince with one method, they try spin. Let's hope that tomorrows vote on the long gun registry FINALLY kills the beast! Leslea in Alberta

SMR September 20, 2010 6:03 am (Pacific time)

I can't help noting that one small mention of the Tea Party engendered an extensive comment from someone who missed the entire thrust of the article while attemptin to justify his and his TP friends unthinking "solution" to all that ails our social system, based on simple fear and anger rather than facts and rational thought.

Jerry West September 19, 2010 11:50 am (Pacific time)

Colli, greedy politicians and the appearance of greedy government are a factor of the current economic system. Big corporations control booth and direct policy to serve their need. The TP outrage is orchestrated by the same people to divert attention from the real problem which is an economic system that is not sustainable and is built on exploitation. The wealthy who run the country walk a line between getting as much as they can while forcing the middle class to pay the freight to keep the poor from revolting, all the while blaming the poor for the problems when actually the problem is the wealthy and the economic system that they control. If the TP really wants to clean things up their first target for destruction should be the corporations and the wealthy. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are part of this system and the big fuss between the two is more theater than reality. In the end they both serve the same interests. It is interesting watching the TP unfold as it consists of two opposed interest groups, social conservatives and libertarians. Both are fiscal conservatives, but in the end when the system no longer finds the TP useful things like gay marriage and abortion will divide them.

Mike September 19, 2010 10:58 am (Pacific time)

The gun control debate should be an easy one... - Does it serve a meaningful purpose?... No. - Can we use the money on more meaningful programs?... Yes.

Douglas Benson September 19, 2010 8:50 am (Pacific time)

There is only one reason to register weapons.So the goverment can take them from you .

Colli September 19, 2010 3:48 am (Pacific time)

I agree with most of what you say Jerry. If you are off on anything, it is why people have joined the Tea Party movement. My wife deals with folks who have lost their jobs every day. Many have lost some or all of their retirement savings, their cars, their homes, and have even lost their families as a direct result of greedy government and greedier politicians. I feel sure that most people have migrated toward the Tea Party because of those things. They are just sick and tired of being the privy for the politician’s bad ideas and dreams of political self-actualization. They are refusing to run and hide and believe it is time to turn and fight by cleaning out the current crop of corrupt self-serving puppets we have sitting in Washington.

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