Sunday, November 15, 2009

2012 Count Down to Doomsday

I have resisted writing about this for some time, now I am giving into it with the release of the blockbuster Movie 2012. What is the fascination with the end of the world anyway? It is nothing new, people have been telling us the end is nigh for some time. Y2K was supposed to be the year the last trip round the doomsday clock. Now the date from the Mayan calendar is the new doomsday. Every prophet or prophecy I have encountered over the years never has any good news. Is it a case of collective guilt and collective bitterness between the haves and the have nots of the world? A “We don’t deserve our good fortune.” Coalescing with “You SOBs will get yours” perfect storm? I don’t know really but we seem to get preoccupied by doom every now and again.

According to the latest round the doomsday prophets the clock is set for December 21, 2012. This date is taken from the Mayans, a stone age civilization of pre-Columbian North America. The Maya were advanced for their time they developed a system of mathematics and conceived of numbers less than zero. However they built everything out of stone and obsidian they were not the most technologically advanced. They believed in a Pantheon of Gods which resembled animals natural to their environment and fed these gods with an endless line of human sacrifice. Not exactly a civilization I would hang any predictions on.

According to those who have studied the Maya they did not predict the end of the world. The mystery if you will is around the question of why the calendar ends when it does. If they were the great predictors as they are made out to be why didn’t it end when their civilization ended in 900 ce. Guess they didn’t see it coming.

They were the top tribe in the area if you will, if you were Mayan you were tops. Not likely to be the sacrifice. Perhaps it was their arrogance that produced a calendar that went so far into the future, more years than anyone could count was impressive. Perhaps being the regions master race they like our modern Nazis types(the thousand year Reich) were showing their superiority by stating that they would be around forever. In any case I haven’t met any ancient Mayans to ask them.

The truth is the world has ended thousands of times in our recorded and unrecorded history. We modern types seem to view the world as being the whole planet since we have knowledge of its totality. However many ancients only had concept of the world as what existed in the area that they could walk. What existed beyond that was terra incognita and was left to the imagination of what lay beyond that. A devastating earth quake or volcano could end the world they knew. So why would it be any different for the Maya.

So I will be bold and make a prediction, December 21st 2012 will come and go like every other 21st of December. Maybe with a little more fan fare than others. We also need to realize that a calendar running out is not cause for doom it just means its creators were not around to update it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Enough Rhetoric, Hyperbole and Hubris

I am somewhat dismayed by the mainstream press, I have seen a great deal of ink decrying the end of the Long Gun Registry with the usual tired spin. All presented as gospel with little basis in truth or fact. Paid columnist doing their jobs of pontificating both theirs and that of editorial board’s views of the gun registry. I can say with a degree of confidence that none own firearms and have had no dealings with the firearms bureaucracy. Rarely is there balance shown, with the usual suspects being held up as experts on the topic. More is the pity, when democracy is exercised in the House of Commons and the outcome is not to their liking it is construed as a cheap political trick. On the other hand when a bill is rammed through a majority House, Senate and Committees unchanged that’s democracy in action? I am of the firm belief that all Bills in the House of Commons should be private members Bills (excepting the Budget), debated and voted on freely. That way laws would be enacted based on their utility and merit rather than partisan party lines.

Our rebuttals are confined to the limited number of words that can be published in a letter to the editor. With no guarantee the entire letter will be published as is or published at all. Indeed we are kept a vocal minority.

To address this in a rational fashion we need to put a wee bit of background into the public’s view. In Canada for over a hundred years no citizen has had to have either a licence nor register a shotgun nor a rifle. Up until 1977 anyone could walk into a gun shop pick out a rifle or shotgun pay for it and leave. The sale was recorded at the shop that was the end of it. After 1977 a firearms acquisition certificate (FAC) was required in order to purchase a rifle or shotgun. This was not a licence part of getting an FAC was a criminal background check however the long guns already owned by an individual were still legal. AG Kim Campbell enacted the requirement of a safety course to obtain a FAC. Bill C-68 changed all that, as of 1995 it was illegal to own any firearm, unless you were the holder of a licence and all firearms in your possession were registered. Imagine a Government granting a licence to break the law? A tad absurd if you ask me.

What is the big deal? We register vehicles and licence their drivers. This is both true and false, the more correct way of putting it would be, we licence drivers and register vehicles for use on public roads. No requirement of either is required if the driver and vehicle do not leave private property. Nor is it a criminal offence if you drive without a licence or registered said vehicle. Nor does the emergency response team from your local constabulary kick in your door in the wee smalls of the morning to seize all your vehicles and lay criminal charges either. The MTOs are also very efficient at sending out renewal papers and there are numerous locations to visit to renew your licence and vehicle registrations. For firearms owners there is only one method via Canada Post. So it is only true up to the point that they are licences and registrations after that the similarity ends. I would also add that an individual may own any vehicle they wish to, no restrictions are placed on the type of vehicle nor does one receive a visit from law enforcement to inspect said vehicles.

It is a valuable tool. I might just be too simple to understand but I have always been of the opinion that a tool actually achieves something. Whether that is a shovel to dig a hole or a DNA profile to prove the presence of a person at a crime scene or to exclude them. It is said that the registry connects an individual to a firearm and holds them accountable. Of course this is only true if a person is foolish enough to commit a crime with a registered firearm and hang on to it. Even so it is irrelevant because in law it makes little difference if a person is shot with a registered firearm or an unregistered firearm. For that matter even if it is a borrowed registered firearm. The registry is also inaccurate so inaccurate that it cannot be used as evidence in a court of law. If a patrol officer responding to a call queries the registry and finds no guns at the location should he believe that and let his guard down? Police in the United States do not have the luxury of universal registry of firearms yet they seem to function quite effectively. In the UK where registration is mandatory and quite onerous, so much so that many Britains have in fact turned in their firearms rather than go through the red tape to keep them. Further to that handguns have banned since 1998, have had to start arming their police because crimes involving firearms has increased not declined as one would think. The UK is the most violent country in the EU with 2034 violent crimes per population of 100 000. We in Canada have nothing to be smug about we ranked in at #6 on that survey. Whereas our gun toting neighbours to the south who are often held up as the example of why guns are evil didn’t even make the top ten in that survey. We were promised by Mr Alan Rock that crime would plummet with the registry in place. So where is this efficacy?

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are strong supporters of the registry. In a Globe and Mail article last April it was reported that their ethics officer resigned over their associations practice of receiving corporate donations Taser International was a large contributor, low and behold the use of their product received their ringing endorsement for use in law enforcement despite the fatalities directly attributed to their use. Oddly enough CGI group another large contributor to the association which coincidently are also contractors for the registry, now receive a ringing endorsement viz their support of the registry. This moves them out of the realm of professional organization to political lobby. It could be also said that a Police Chief is long removed from a patrol car and out of touch with his frontline officers. Further the hiring of a Chief is done by the local politicians, the renewal of one’s contract could be tied more to politics than performance.
It prevents gun crime, Again I must be too simple because I am not seeing the Emperor’s new clothes on this. How does having a piece of paper (the registration slip) stop a crime? The bad guys could steal a registered rifle, file the serial number off and the registry is defeated. In theory anyone could commit a crime today and report their firearm stolen yesterday. Again where is the rational connection to prevention? Kimveer Gil used registered firearms at the Dawson College shooting, the only thing the registry did was confirm they were his. That is cold comfort for his victim’s family. Gamil Gharbi of the Polytechnique shooting, if his rifle had been registered would the registration slip have sounded an alarm alerting people to his presence? Would it have sprung to life and barred him from leaving his home that day? No it could not. So where is its utility?

If it saves one life is it not worth the money spent? I don’t think that this is the correct question. I think the question is, has it saved one life? With the true costs hidden in Cabinet secrecy we will never know its true costs. Though 2 billion dollars is the figure often cited. Another fair question becomes how many more lives could have been saved by allocating those funds elsewhere? Two billion dollars could have funded many programs with direct and tangible results in crime reduction. Youth recovery programs come to mind. It has been cited that it costs $24 000 per youth to recover them from gangs, which translates out to 83 000 lives saved from a violent life and possible death. Every shelter for women in the country could have been funded for 15 years. Though perhaps the money would be better spent trying to eliminate the need for such shelters. How about an MRI in every hospital? Thousands of lives could be saved with that annually. Thus far to date the money spent on the registry remains squandered resources with 0 results.