The tenor of the debate surrounding the gun registry puts Canadian political discourse in perspective: and it does not look good for progressives

When I left BC back in 1998 I was happy to discover that the most pernicious elements of politically correct forms of argumentation had not, as of yet, penetrated the political culture in Ontario. Now do not get me wrong there are many elements to the campaign for “political correctness” (the phrase reeks of the most pungent extremes of Maoism) that I was and continue to be in agreement with. No it is not OK to ignore, discount, or ridicule the arguments of others based on any affiliation to any group: “natural” or as the sages say “otherwise”.

(Be patient the hammer is coming down)

Arguments must be judged on their merits: logic teaches us that which reason dictates.

And part of logic is premises, so I am open and to and consider it necessary to revisit both the ontological and epistemological assumptions embedded in any truth claims. But here logic is an aid not a judge. That is to say, with certain changes in perspective the seeming veracity of an argument may crumble.

Let me give an example. Liberal economists are fond of taking policy positions based on their definition of efficiency which looks something like this. Policy X will increase John’s income by 15$ but decrease Jane’s income by 5$. Should policy X be pursued? The liberal economist will answer yes because there is an implied gain of 10$. Now we are free to make any number of responses. A) 10$ is better than zero so yes implement policy X. B) I appreciate there is 10$ to be had there but we must compensate Jane because in my moral universe Jane should not be made worse off to better John. Etc.

The point is in both responses I am told what the pay-off is and what the values motivating the choices are. And I can pick one or present another option from a different set of values. I can even contest whether or not the estimations of the gains and losses are reasonable. That is, maybe I estimate John’s potential gains at 8$ and Jane’s losses at 8$ in which case we are just shuffling the redistributive deck without a rational as to why. Logic is not a judge it is a guide. It makes us formulate our first, second and third order positions in a clear manner. If this blog has, and it certainly has, taken a hard line against liberal economists it is precisely because they hold their first order positions as sacrosanct.

Ok. So how does the tenor of the Gun Registry debate stack-up. Not very well. In fact, it does not pass the smell test. Exhibit A, a post that is in the feed over at Progressive Bloggers by Real Canadian Polititics

Putting the registry in perspective
Conservatives, and many other Canadians, are upset about Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s decision to force his MPs to save the gun registry, but Liberal MP Scott Simms really put it in perspective today.

Simms was one of the eight Liberal MPs that voted in favour of scrapping the registry at second reading, but he has now told his colleagues that he has changed his mind, not only because Ignatieff ordered him too, but for his own personal reasons too.

Simms father, Reginald Simms, took his own life with a long gun in June of this year, prompting his son to change his vote, stating that even if the registry saves only one life, it will be worth it.

Simms has more than his father to think, he also stated that after the second reading he looked up into the gallery and saw a woman crying. He mouthed the words, “I’m sorry” to her, and now he plans to make good on his “mistake.” It is believed that the woman in the gallery was Suzanne Laplante-Edwards, the mother of a girl killed in the L’Ecole Polytechnique massacre. It is unclear whether she will be in the gallery tonight.

Are you following the logic in the above quote dear reader? If you are not saying to yourself what the fucking hell is going on here (WTFHIGOH) then you are part of the problem I am identifying. How for the love of all that is profane does the gun registry have anything whatsoever to do with the suicide of this liberal member’s father, with his choice to take his own life, or with the masacre de L’Ecole Polytechnique? It boggles the mind.

Where is the logic here? Mr Simms registers his long gun and in that darkest of moments before he musters the courage to take his own life he says to himself: “I registered this rifle I better not commit suicide.” Yep that is exactly the mental process at work.

When twenty-five-year-old Marc Lépine made a choice to use his legally obtained riffle to massacre 14 women and wound 10 women just for being women do we really think that if the extra legal step had been there to register his arm after already legally obtaining it that he would have said to himself: “I legally obtained this riffle but because I had to register it I will reflect on my deeply held misogynist values and reconsider the course of action I am about to take.” (?)

I am not being glib here. What is the connection between registration and potential use? Registration is not gun control it is at best an imperfect system of riffle tracking. But neither the right nor the centre nor the left want to have an adult conversation.

Mother’s milk to left, mother’s milk in the centre, and mother’s milk on the right.

Reason be damned lets legislate!

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14 thoughts on “The tenor of the debate surrounding the gun registry puts Canadian political discourse in perspective: and it does not look good for progressives

  1. I wait eagerly for someone to claim you “lack empathy” or are “emotionless” for not seeing how obviously relevant Simms’ personal tragedy is. Happened to me when I made pretty much this point on Twitter.

    Ian at Terahertz Atheist nailed it, I think. It’s got nothing to do with logic or evidence or reason. It’s like a religious argument: it’s tribal and, thus, emotional. You’re supposed to be brandishing your credentials and crying on cue, not thinking your way through it like every other policy ever.

    • I suspect there won`t be any comments to that effect. The legislation is still alive so there is no need respond. I see from your links that no one managed a coherent defense of the registry. It all came down to either partisan prodding or spurious analogy. By the by, my sister is a Crown and they like it because it is an “and also”. As in we don’t sufficient evidence for X but we did find an unregistered firearm. So the legislation could be defended on its merits as a tool for criminal prosecution even if there is a mild circularity involved.

  2. So what’s your point. For 15 years the anti LGR side has been doing the same thing; the government wants to confiscate all your guns or they’re turning law abiding citizens into criminals.

    As far as logical reasons for it, there are numerous ones. Opponents of the registry simply don’t accept them as valid.

    • Robert I generally like what I read from your blog, as in find it well articulated with clear train of logic flowing from generally clear premises. I am just not getting that from your comment here. I am neither for nor against the registry. The arguments on the right have tended to be over the top. Although I am sympathetic to charter S(8) concerns but that hardly should be a left right issue. The arguments on the center and left have been far too cluttered with emotional nonsense. What for example is the connection between the long gun registry and the tragic death of Mr. Simms father? You know there is none and you can call that a bullshit argument without giving up reasoned arguments for the registry.

      I find your defense of this nonsense completely counter productive. Do you really think progressives are better off in a world where reasoned argument is replaced by lies, hyperbole and emotional string pulling. I would encourage you to watch Triumph of the Will a couple times. Or reflect on the mechanics used to get the American people on board for invading Iraq. Do you really think that a progressive politics can be sustained and reproduced through such fundamentally anti-humanist values? I do not.

      • My point was that it’s a little late in the game to be worrying about appeals to emotion on this issue. That ship sailed 15 years ago. You’re better off if you simply ignore those and look for the logical arguments.

    • I’ll give you two quick ones.

      1) It enables police to confiscate weapons when there is the reasonable potential for misuse to occur.

      Example: Joe beats up his wife one night. The police check the registry and see he owns two shotguns. So they take them away in order to prevent Joe from misusing them. Was a life saved? Maybe not. Maybe Joe is remourseful for what he did, seeks help and never repeats the offense. Then again, maybe Joe gets licquored up one night, loads his shotgun and blows his wife’s head off. Knowing Joe is entitled to own guns is not enough. The police need to know whether or not he actually does.

      2) It assists the police in preventing criminals from obtaining guns.

      Example: A gangbanger wants a gun but he’s got a criminal record so there’s no chance he’ll get a license to own one. So he gets his girlfriend who doesn’t have a criminal record to do it for him. Gangbanger then uses the gun to commit a crime and gets caught. Without the registry the police have no way of knowing how the gangbanger got the gun and the gangbanger’s girlfriend is free to continue supplying him and the rest of is gang with guns. With the registry however, the police can track where the gun came from, arrest the girlfriend for supplying the gangbanger with the gun and then revoke her ability to do so in the future.

      There are two logical reasons to maintain the registry and there are others.

      • Robert I am sympathetic to both arguments you make. But I am also sympathetic to arguments which point to the implications for S(7 & 8) which mostly arise from the change in attitude of police officers. And I think a reasoned debate would at least attempt to make the trade-offs clear and assess whether or not those trade-offs need exist to maintain the integrity of the public policy.

  3. In his Theory of Communicative Action Habermas outline three primary types of truth claims; a) factual claims, b) normative claims, & c) dramaturgical claims. Later in his major follow up work, Between Facts and Norms, he more clearly ties normative claims to issues of law and public policy. He makes it clear that in many issues of law and public policy the communicator cannot always rely on factual claims but must tie certain kinds of policies (or laws) to overall normative strategies which help to define the limits of socially acceptable or appropriate behaviour. Thus, since you can only tie the efficiency to certain kinds of regulations (like the gun registry) to either correlative evidence for effectiveness (in so-called factual terms), we also rely on normative (and that is to say morally symbolic) terms of reference. There is not necessarily a direct tie between a law, for example, and the impact of that law on socially appropriate behaviour. Rather, it is part of a wider symbolic discourse about what is normatively sought by the actors in question. And as Habermas points out in his Between Facts and Norms, it has always been this way. You cannot, for example, prove that laws against murder actually stop any murders, you can only argue for such laws within a wider normative framework. Thus, Mr. Simms’ actions are not as “irrational” as you claim since we can made both correlative and normative ties between gun laws and gun deaths.

    • It is pretty much understood that by being in the database you are inviting more aggressive behaviour from police officers and broader interpretations by the courts of police officers conduct in their interactions with you. Being politically active and being involved in political protest from time to time I will never obtain a PAL, nor own a firearm. I just will not invite that degree of latitude into my interaction with police officers nor the courts.

      And that is what I think gun owners mean when they talk about the criminalizing of gun ownership. They do not mean that they cannot legally own their guns; they mean that legally owning their guns opens them up to being treated like criminals by law enforcement.

  4. “But neither the right nor the centre nor the left want to have an adult conversation.”

    Welcome to my world.

    (PS: I’m happy enough with the registry being in existence, but, to paraphrase Gompers, I want more.)

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