More on Gun Control in Canada, Yesterday and Today:

All emphases added:

  1. Hamilton Spectator (Ontario, Canada), Jan. 12, 1999:

    [T]he main criticisms [of the new gun registration law] are: One, [critics] fear the slippery slope, that once their guns are registered, they can too easily be taken away. Easily concealed handguns have previously been confiscated without compensation.

    Two, they sense being pegged as criminals. There is no U.S. constitutional argument to lean on — no "right to bear and keep arms" — just a feeling it's unfair and arbitrary. . . .

    To a non-gun owner, a registry sounds entirely harmless. If you don't plan to engage in criminal acts, why oppose it? Count most federal officials among this group.

    "Welcome to the weapons world," chuckles Jean Valin, a justice department spokesman, addressing gun owner concerns. "We are trying to tell (owners) go to sleep at night, because you have nothing to fear from this government. They like to invent bogeymen, and this is one of them."

  2. Hamilton Spectator (Ontario, Canada), Jan. 4, 2001, item written by Howard Elliott, who is now the newspaper's Executive Editor:

    A concern regularly cited by those who oppose [the registration] law, and gun licensing and registration in general, is that this is the first step on a slippery slope with the final destination being the government's intention to make guns illegal, or to make them so difficult to own, people will find owning a gun isn't worth the bother.

    No doubt, there are people on the gun control side of the debate who favour this sort of outcome, just as there are people on the other side who believe Canadians should have unfettered rights to own firearms with minimal or no government involvement.

    But we suspect that neither of these extreme viewpoints reflects the position of the average Canadian, who tends to be moderate and fair-minded. There is no evidence that gun registration will ever equal arbitrary seizure, or a law against ownership. In the end, this is about having firearms registered, so police will have more knowledge of who has guns and be in a better position to protect the public where danger does exist. That's an eminently reasonable goal.

  3. Maclean's, May 22, 2000:

    Canada . . . [is] portrayed in a pretty darn scary video by the U.S. National Rifle Association. The NRA (like many Canadian gun owners, to be sure) is particularly outraged by Bill C-68, the federal law requiring all firearms to be registered by the end of 2002. It's the old slippery slope argument: once the feds know where the guns are, it's just a matter of time before they take them away.

    Or so, at least, argues the NRA . . . . It should, by all rights, be a tough sell these days. Americans have been shocked by a string of shootings at schools, churches, offices — even day-care centres. . . . [The piece goes on to discuss the Million Mom March movement.] But the early evidence is not all encouraging. It may take more than dying teens, or marching moms, to shift American attitudes.

  4. Vancouver Sun, today (thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer):

    Prime Minister Paul Martin will propose a ban on most handguns in Canada, CanWest News Service has learned.

    Sources say Martin, who will make the election campaign announcement this morning, wants to choke off the supply of handguns in this country, particularly guns brought into the country illegally and those sold on the black market.

    There will be some exemptions, including maintaining the right for police to carry handguns. The prime minister is also expected to announce a significant increase in resources for police to deal with the ban.

    The Liberals say the thinking behind this crime strategy is that if no one is allowed to have a handgun in Canada, policing authorities will be in a better position to act on anyone who has a handgun or attempts to transport or sell a handgun.

    The announcement will include the banning of all registered handguns in Canada. However, sources say special arrangements will be made for gun collectors.

UPDATE: Dave Kopel's post below has much more.

FURTHER UPDATE: Just to make it clear, I'm suggesting that gun owners are right to doubt assurances that they can "sleep at night" with no fear of gun bans. In Canada, handgun registration was eventually followed by the late 1990s long gun registration, which in turn is now followed by a proposal for a handgun ban (which would likely be made cheaper and thus more politically feasible by the presence of handgun registration). Gun owners who slept at night now wake up to find one sort of gun ban on the doorstep; gun registration is indeed now being followed by a law against ownership; the NRA's "old slippery slope argument" seems to have proven sensible. And it seems quite plausible that a handgun ban would eventually be followed by a rifle or shotgun ban -- for instance, as people point out (quite accurately) that many criminals, if denied access to handguns, would use much more lethal sawed-off shotguns, and banning all long guns is necessary to "choke off the supply of [sawed-off shotguns and rifles] in this country, particularly guns [cut down in] the country illegally and those sold on the black market."

Long gun registration surely isn't ineluctably causing handgun bans; even handgun registration needn't necessarily be followed by handgun bans. These are tendencies, not guarantees. But when past assurances of the "don't worry, no gun bans looming, we're just talking modest regulations here" variety prove to be unsound, perhaps gun owners should be skeptical when they hear similar assurances in the future.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on Gun Control in Canada, Yesterday and Today:
  2. Canadian Government to Ban Handguns:
anonymous coward:
How many (currently owned) guns are we actually talking about in this ban-with-exceptions? Hundreds? Tens of thousands? I ask because a comment to Kopel's post asserted that handgun registration was already onerous and the bill would exempt many of the relatively few current handgun owners. (I do not know anything about gun ownership in Canada. Also, it seems the bill's details are still unknown.)
12.8.2005 2:27pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Judging by recent news, Canada would do better to register its politicians, having more to fear from them.
12.8.2005 2:30pm
Eric S. (mail) (www):
So how does this affect your assessment in "Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope," (116 Harv. L. Rev. 1026, 1033-34, for those unfamiliar) that "only the latter two mechanisms seem fairly plausible to me," referring to six possible mechanisms:
consider the claim that gun registration (A) might lead to gun confiscation (B). 17 Setting aside whether we think this slippery slope is likely - and whether it might actually be desirable - it turns out that the slope might happen through many different mechanisms, or combinations of mechanisms:
1) changing "attitudes about the propriety of confiscation";
2) aggregation with other small changes
3) political momentum
4) reduced political power of gun owners
5) lowered [financial] cost of confiscation
6) removing Fourth Amendment-type barriers to search and seizure of unconfiscated guns

Or is this not the operation of the slippery slope at all?
12.8.2005 2:34pm
Maybe I'm missing the causal linkage here. I understand why Canadians perhaps should not trust their government. I don't understand what this has to do with registration of guns, however. A ban on handguns does not appear to be per se evidence of registration -> seizure: 1) I would think that the ban could have been passed without the registration already in place, and 2) many things that are registered are not confiscated. The ban appears to reflect simply the current political climate in Canada, rather than demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that registration of guns is a causal factor for gun confiscation.
12.8.2005 2:56pm
anonymous coward:
"I would think that the ban could have been passed without the registration already in place..."

I think the notion is that confiscation is easier when you know where the (legal) guns are.
12.8.2005 2:59pm
Robert Lyman (mail):
Also, anti-gun politicians have never, to my knowlege, said "Well, we won all the regulations we wanted. Now we will resist any further gun control." They always want to take "the next step." The next step after registration is probably banning, whether wholesale or of certain specific classes.
12.8.2005 3:02pm
Houston Lawyer:
I want to thank the Canadian government for making the mandatory registration of firearms in this country much less likely.
12.8.2005 3:06pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
Yes, indeed. God bless Canada.
12.8.2005 3:54pm

This does seem to indicate that politicians will continue to increase the regulation of guns as long as there are political benefits to doing so. Which, of course, is just a particular application of a general theorem of representative democracy.

In fact, this strikes me as just one of the many ways in which gun regulation is like the regulation of recreational drugs.
12.8.2005 3:56pm
Splunge (mail):
LG, the causal link is that people are more willing to take several small steps towards a result about which they feel ambivalent than one large step.

The effect is well-known in salesmanship. For example: you go to a car dealership having made a sensible joint decision with the wife to buy a nice, cheap Econobox. But the salesman says: here, why don't you take this LuxoGuzzler 3i with the quadraphonic CD-changer stereo, cruise control and in-dash wet bar for a test drive? But I don't want to buy it! you protest. Of course, of course, he says, soothingly patting your shoulder. I know that. I wouldn't dream of trying to sell it to you. In fact, I'm going to go get the papers on your Econobox right now. But -- he says, turning around as he walks away, as if the thought's just struck him -- while you wait, what harm could there be in a l'il test drive? The damn car's just sitting there. We don't mind if you take it around the block. It'll just be a bit of fun for you, that's all. Don't you deserve a bit of fun after slaving all day over a hot word processor? Sure you do.

You know the rest of the story. There you are two hours later, staring at your shoes while the wife taps her foot ("You did what?!"), trying to remember the explanation that seemed so rational and compelling while driving home.

The argument for a gun ban comes in two parts: (A) The private citizen is not competent to decide whether he ought to have one or not -- government must decide. (B) The private citizen is not competent to own a gun -- therefore, unless he is an agent of the government, he must not. So if you can win a fight to get guns registered, you've half won the argument for a gun ban, if that's your ultimate intention.

The substance of Eugene's complaint is that sometimes, when the population is ambivalent, people with that intention try to win an argument for gun registration specifically by disavowing it. That is, they lie outrageously.

This is the equivalent of the salesman putting you at your ease by telling you he has no intention of selling you the LuxoCroozer 3i, and is getting the papers to sell you the sensible car right now. He's bullshitting you, isn't he? And that this happens makes buying a car a more troublesome process with a higher propensity to disturb domestic tranquility (e.g. have you end up sleeping on the sofa for a week). One can make the case that similar bullshitting in the public sphere produces a similar increased risk of disturbing public domestic tranquility. It does seem likely the social contract works better in the long run if we are honest with each other about our intentions.

The best possible argument for the existence of the slippery slope is that the statements Eugene quotes could be construed to suggest that the supporters of the present proposed gun ban believed in it themselves, and that this is exactly why they proposed registration in the first place. Not because they were interested in registration per se, but because they believed it would be an effective first step towards a ban.
12.8.2005 4:21pm
anonymous coward:
"The best possible argument for the existence of the slippery slope is that the statements Eugene quotes could be construed to suggest that the supporters of the present proposed gun ban believed in it themselves, and that this is exactly why they proposed registration in the first place."

"Could be construed to suggest?" So? Neither you nor Eugene nor Dave Kopel has actually made this case. (I'm sure it wouldn't be tough to make in some cases, even though I don't actually think the conspiracy theory is the main political reason for the slippery slope.)
12.8.2005 4:32pm
Kevin Baker (mail) (www):
Again I'm reminded of this 2002 post by Eugene wherein he quotes Charles T. Morgan, then Director of Washington Office of the ACLU in House testimony before the 94th Congress all the way back in 1975:
What the administation's and Congressman McClory's bills . . . call for is a whole new set of Federal records. . . .

I have not one doubt, even if I am in agreement with the National Rifle Association, that that kind of a record-keeping procedure is the first step to eventual confiscation under one administration or another.
The rest of us don't doubt it either. And Canada just gives us another data point.
12.8.2005 4:35pm
Mr. Crabby Pants:
Isn't it fairly natural for a politician in a shaky position to look for somebody unpopular to kick around? At least Martin's not peddling anti-Americanism, or claiming to have "secret evidence" that random Israelis are spies, like that crazy lady in New Zealand last year (not that any reasonable person would ever doubt the word of a government official who claims to have "secret evidence").

But anyway. I'm not sure this more than tangentially related to gun control as such.
12.8.2005 4:53pm
Shelby (mail):
Judging by recent news, Canada would do better to register its politicians, having more to fear from them.

A study of history suggests the problems are closely related.
12.8.2005 4:57pm
Alex R:
As I commented in response to Dave Kopel's post, according to the linked article, "...a handgun registry has been in force for more than 60 years."

So if handguns were registered for 60 years before without being banned, how does the banning of handguns now (assuming that this proposal is enacted) constitute a slippery slope? (A registry for long guns was created more recently, but long guns are not affected by the proposed ban.)

The slope to me looks not to be all that slippery...
12.8.2005 5:09pm
Buck Hibbard (mail) (www):
As a manufacture of gun parts with customers in Canada I can tell you (your oun goverment can give you the data) that many thousands of Canadians own hand guns. The data will also tell you that of those tens-of-thousands who are legaly entitled to own handguns very very few ever use them in a crime. The same data will also inform you as the the usefullness (or lack their-of) of registration in fighting crime.

In truth there is no rational reason for registration if your goal is to reduce crime, and study after study has proven that to be the case. It is also true that in order for confication to be possible you must first implement a policy of registration. I dont think I need to point out here that the only people effected by this registration will be law abiding citizens; the Criminal element (the target of this confication remember) will neither register their guns or be included when the next step is taken and a confication law is enacted.

Why does one follow the other? because it always does. I challenge you to find a single instance in history where forced registration has not resulted in forced confication. I could save you the trouble and tell you that not a single example exists; but it would be better and more educational if you look for yourselves.

While engaged in your search, please note the freedoms and liberties lost, the treasure spent, and the and the millions of people who were slaughtered once they were willingly disarmed...for their own protection.


Owner, One Ragged Hole.
12.8.2005 5:52pm
dbp (mail) (www):

I think that game theory can help to explain why registration paves the way for confiscation.

In the absence of registration, one can expect that the chances of government agents discovering that you own a proscribed weapon is low. I think that (in the absence of draconion measures by authorities) most people will disobey the law. There is thus plenty of time to organize opposition to politicians who enact confiscation laws.

If there is registration, then one can rationally expect that if you do not turn in your weapons you will be caught and will suffer punishment. The game will be over before citizens can organize and vote the bums out.
12.8.2005 5:53pm
Schip (mail):
In the end, this is about having firearms registered, so police will have more knowledge of who has guns and be in a better position to protect the public where danger does exist.

Because, of course, the criminals will have all registered their guns.
12.8.2005 6:08pm
Shelby (mail):
I challenge you to find a single instance in history where forced registration has not resulted in forced confication.

Well, as of yesterday, Canada. ;-) Actually I think your conclusions are right, but I'm sure there are plenty of places where forced registration has not yet led to confiscation. But if we wait until the confiscation is imminent, it will be too late.

I now await those who complain that because confiscation is not imminent, we must not act in defense of gun ownership.
12.8.2005 6:32pm
One point that doesn't seem to have been acknowledged yet.
There has been a handgun registry in Canada since the 30's, and only now is the government proposing banning handguns. The recent federal gun registry program expanded registration to rifles.

So it would seem that there was a 70 year time span between registering handguns and banning them, and the recent interest in banning handguns has been spurred by a recent increase in gang related shootings, mostly in Toronto and Vancouver

12.8.2005 6:43pm
Dave-TuCents (www):

That's why a lot of otherwise law abiding folk would rather own an illegal unregistered handgun than a registered one. They do not trust the assurances.
12.8.2005 7:33pm
therut (mail):
Well how about the slippery slope here in the good ole USA. Just on the Federal level although it takes a slightly different path. The 1934 registration of machine guns. Then how many years till no importation,no new manufacture for civilian possession. Eh? Slippery. Then take into count CA, Chicago, DC, Morton Grove,NYC etc.There are others. Then you throw in Clinton who just went to a straight ban. Didn't last but he tried. Let's not forget his deamonizing and scapegoating of firearm owners and the MSM going right along with it along with the ACLU the so called protectors of our rights.(except for one). Wonder why???????????????????????????????
12.8.2005 9:22pm
Addison (mail):
In this case, the time frame was approximately 70 years.

But the more important time frame: Time from when a politician felt it politically expediant - 0.

I promise you, if there's a database, it will be used by whoever has it. For whatever purposes they feel the need. Or just on whims. And in this case, despite all the promises that there was no consideration of confiscation.... there's been a lot of consideration of confiscation.
12.8.2005 9:32pm
charley (mail):
Part of the reason that gun owners are apprehensive about this sort of thing is that (since they tend to know more about guns than do non-gun owners- and more about gun laws) they see that such laws rarely if ever prevent any violent crime or other "gun death". Does a criminal steal his guns from non-registrants instead of registrants? If anything, the opposite might be true, especially if the list is public. Would a drunk or doper who decides to shoot his wife in a fit of inebriated rage suddenly say "Oh, but I can't- this gun is registered!"? Would a careless person be less likely to have an accidental shooting with a registered gun? Would someone intent on suicide be deterred by the fact that his gun had been registered? Clearly the answer in each case is "no". Therefore, gun owners conclude that the primary rational purpose of registration is "step two", or confiscation- whether the supporters of the policy know it or not.

For examples in the US, look at California, New York and New Jersey, in which gun owners were promised explicitly that the registration laws applied to their semi-auto rifles would not be followed by a ban. I believe (someone check me) that Chicago, too, is now using it's registration lists to enforce a ban on civilian handgun ownership.
12.9.2005 12:17am
It's not quite accurate to say there has been no banning of guns yet in Canada. As C-68 was implemented, firearms were put into different classifications by government order. The vast majority of handguns, rifles and shotguns in private hands prior to the bill would, after its implementation, be considered "restricted" subject to both permitting and registration.

A new category, "prohibited" appeared as well, requiring the same permitting and registration as "restricted" guns. However, no additional "prohibited" guns could be brought into the country. Also, only gun owners grandfathered with "prohibited" guns could purchase them from another "prohibited" owner or estate. It doesn't take too much figuring to see how anything on the "P" list gets melted within a generation. Fathers to sons? Nope. Uncles to nephews? Nope. Retiring collector to aspiring collector? Nope.

Any "prohibited" problem could be easily resolved by simply turning over the gun(s) to your friendly constabulary for disposition at no cost (or recompense) to you. Typical "P" list items are "Saturday Night Specials", all small caliber handguns (.22/.25/.32 cal) and compact or concealable handguns. Your typical "assualt(-type) weapons" also made the list.

A "safe storage" requirement, membership in approved shooting range clubs, requirement that collectors permanently disable their firearms and removal of "self-defense" as an acceptable reason for gun ownership should have given just about any breathing Canadian a solid inkling of where C-68 was leading them - a very different place than that possible under the previous registration regime.

The practical effect of the entire permitting and registration scheme to date has been to make firearm ownership in Canada so much of a pain that many people say "to hell with it" and turn over their guns to the police for destruction. Candians therefore have already been conditioned to accept turning over guns to police for destruction. This latest handgun move is just more of the same and will be accepted with little public outcry. Any resistance that does exist can readily be papered over using narrowly constructed "exemptions" that will expire or be revoked at some point in the future.

Thank God for the Second.
12.9.2005 3:04am
Robert Lyman (mail):
Why exactly is the 70-year delay between registration and banning supposed to make gun owners feel better? I'll be dead, but what good is that to the living, who will have to see their great-grandfather's cherished heirlooms taken and destroyed?

I'd like my grandchildren to enjoy the freedom I did, so a delay isn't much comfort to me.
12.9.2005 11:55am
As a Canadian I hesitate to jump into this debate but I feel compelled to observe that whether one thing leads to another often depends on the context. The Canadian context with respect to views of what is needed for personal security and security from our government seems very different than the American one.

Registration of handguns in Canada has not yet, and I would be prepared to bet, likely never will lead to confiscation. The actual election announcement of an outright ban on handguns by the Liberals, if they form the government, provides exceptions for collectors and others and even whole provinces that can choose to opt out. To try and confiscate registered guns is quite a different matter. I seriously doubt that an elected prime minister (rather than one campaigning for election) would actually attempt that step. In our political context it would be very politically damaging if any party wanted to ever form a majority government again. Time will tell.

In urban Canada, and the majority of our population is urban, handguns are being used to hunt people. It is predominantly black-on-black gang and drug related violence that has escalated dramatically in recent years. That is what has led to the this campaign announcement and what will lead to confiscation if it ever actually occurs.

As to the view that registration is so onerous in Canada that many people have simply surrendered their guns to the authorities, my experience is quite different. Most people I know who found it too onerous or who were philosophically opposed to registration have simply chosen to ignore it.
12.9.2005 12:34pm
Brett Bellmore (mail):
The seventy year delay should be of no comfort to gun owners at all, as there's no reason at all to suppose that the delay will always, or even usually, be of that magnitude. Once registration is in place, confiscation is always only one lost election away. No reasonable person would consent to having a basic civil liberty at such risk, for essentially no gain.
12.9.2005 12:36pm
therut (mail):
Since everyone knows the problem is gangs and drugs why not do something about that instead of doing something that is not related and will have no effect. It is stupid. The same thing goes on in the US. Why not do something about the gangs and drugs. Why do we not go after the gangs like we did the mafia. There was a time when the mafia and outlaws were shot on the spot by the FBI. Why do we let who neighborhoods become festering hell holes and then scream for gun control. The government should be there to protect our rights and the innocent instead of taking our rights away and letting the gangs have a free reign of terror. Could it be racism. I did not see whites get all upset that the white mafia was being gunned down and hunted by the FBI.Remember Bonnie and Clyde. How many times were they shot. Oh heck forget it we have people and the MSM gripping about the Sky Marshall who shot a man that stated he had a bomb on a plane. Our society is doomed to have high crime.
12.9.2005 1:45pm
Buck Hibbard (mail) (www):
RW, you may want to take a look at the examples presented by the U>K.. In response to a whack-job in scotland the U.K. instituted draconian Registration laws and out-right bans on firearms with the goal of reducing crime, and what happened? Crime increased significantly, while honest law abiding citizens were turned into criminals with the stroke of a pen if they chose to keep their weapons to defend their homes and families. Their was no negative effect upon crime rates at all, and the net effect upon the criminal element was the opposite of what the goverment and 'experts' who falsified data and lied on the record to get the laws passed promised.

The result of restrictive gun laws is predictable with a high degree of certainty, with the end result being what is now happining in Canada, and has happened in the UK; increased crime, primarily against persons...more home invasion robberies, muggings, assaults, rapes, etc. If you want to see what will happen if the Canadian people continue to allow their goverment to demand that honest citizens are denied the right of self defense, all you need do is look at england.

BTW, did you know that You are much more likey to have your home invaded or be the victim of a mugging or personal assault in England than you are in the U.S.?
12.9.2005 2:43pm