December 11, 2002

ALPHECCA examines the Canadian gun-registry debacle, where cost overruns are in the billion-dollar range and results are sketchy. Margaret Wente writes in The Globe and Mail:

I asked Philip Stenning, a leading expert on firearms policy, how we got into this billion-dollar mess. "Ideology and incompetence," he answered. "They were on a moral crusade."

Prof. Stenning, who's with the University of Toronto's Centre of Criminology, has advised governments on gun policy since the 1970s. He also advised Sheila Fraser's audit team. "They just couldn't believe their eyes. They've seen lots of terrible things. But they've never seen anything like this." . . .

"Anybody who voiced any kind of opposition to this package was branded as a gun nut and an enemy of peace and security," says Prof. Stenning.

The gun registry was supposed to catch the small minority of irresponsible and potentially dangerous gun owners. But its underlying ideology was that all gun owners were potential criminals. The Justice Department itself admitted as much. In her damning report, the Auditor-General says: "The department said the excessive regulation had occurred because some of its program partners believed that the use of firearms is in itself a 'questionable activity' that required strong controls."

Of course, if Canada's effort is a disaster of the first order -- and it is -- it pales beside what that sort of effort would become in the United States, where it would be faced with massive civil disobedience at the very least.