You would think Nathalie Provost had long ago paid her gun-control dues, by a long shot. You would think she deserved universal respect after being shot four times with the unrestricted semi-automatic rifle Marc Lepine used to murder 14 young women. Six of them died near Provost. She was among the 13 others wounded 22 years and four days ago at Montreal’s L’Ecole Polytechnique in the Montreal Massacre.
Yet an article Provost wrote that was published in the Sault This Week a week ago didn’t just get a lot of comments, most of which disagreed with her gun-control point of view. Some were downright contemptuous, disrespectful, and even scary.
What else could any sane person say about people who think all existing gun control laws in Canada should be abolished? Not just the long gun registry, which the country’s Conservative government is poised to kill, possibly by the time you read this; but all gun control laws, so everyone would be free to carry all manner of concealed weapons to defend themselves.
I don’t believe all gun owners think that way, or even most. I certainly hope not. But if even a modest proportion of them do, that’s reason enough not to abolish the long gun registry, and any other firearm registry, just to keep track of them.
“Yeah you want firearms criminalized,” said one of Provost’s critics in comments published on-line under her article. “Well, you are losing. Long gun registry first, the just-as-useless restricted registry next, decriminalize firearms possession next and then concealed carry (sic) to protect innocent victims like the students at Ecole Polytech,” said one man, in language that’s admittedly a little hard to decipher. But his meaning is clear enough.
Great. Let’s make everyone a judge, jury and executioner in their own right, when faced with any sign of real or perhaps even imagined mortal danger. Let’s not.
I daresay that gun-lover owns one or more, short or long, restricted or unrestricted. And that worries me, especially if they’re unregistered, for reasons that should be obvious to any sane person. The knowledge that his arsenal is registered, that his rifles and shotguns are among the 7.1 million firearms on the long gun registry database is reassuring for those of us who think guns are extremely dangerous things that need to be strictly controlled by law.
But unfortunately that “is” will soon become a “was,” with the Harper government hell-bent to abolish the registry and all its records of those 7.1 million firearms, while it ignores the many concerns being raised by Provost and others about the risk to public safety. Worse, it may signal a general loosening of gun control laws. For example, many critics of Bill C-19 have noted gun sellers will no longer be required by law to confirm at the time of sale that gun buyers are licensed to purchase firearms. How far will the Harper government go? Where will it end, with a Conservative caucus that includes an MP from Alberta who made gun-shooting gestures toward the opposition during a preliminary Bill C-19 vote?
Maybe that gun-loving critic of Provost’s article will get what he wants. He wasn’t the only one of her critics who thought it would be a really good thing if Canadians were allowed to freely carry concealed weapons.
“The only solution to these massacres is freedom,” said another man or woman. It wasn’t possible to tell which from the on-line moniker. “It is an unfortunate reality that when these situations are forced upon you, you might have choice (sic) but to react in force against your aggressor. Gain the courage to protect yourself and others around you. What we truley (sic) need is the freedom to carry guns to we can protect ourselves when incidents like these happen.”
Interesting, the language this gun-lover uses – “situations,” “incidents,” – to describe the mass murder of 14 women and the wounding of 13 others, including Provost, who’s “courage” the commenter questions with callous insensitivity. The use of such empty words to describe what happened that night is incredibly out of touch with the terrible reality of the Montreal Massacre.
Provost survived an ordeal the vast majority of us will hopefully never have to face. She is lucky to be alive. She knows that, of course. She must have struggled mightily with her feelings as she relived that night many, many times over the past 22 years. And now there she is, standing up in public to witness from her own experience, and speak what she believes to be the truth about the need for gun control in this country. That’s courage. To attack her credibility is cowardly.
Provost appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Public Safety and National Security with another L’Ecole Polytechnique survivor to express her concerns about Bill C-19. “The Conservative members completely ignored us and what we said,” she wrote in her article. The Conservative-dominated committee referred the bill back to Parliament without recommending any changes.
“The shootings at l’École Polytechnique triggered a nation-wide movement to improve our gun control laws, Provost said. “Victims, witnesses and families of the deceased fought alongside police and women’s groups to support the adoption and implementation of stricter gun control measures. On the sixth anniversary in December 1995, we were at least able to celebrate the passage of Bill C 68, which introduced a system of licences for all gun owners and the registration of all firearms. And every anniversary since, we drew strength from the progressive reduction of gun related murders, suicides and accidents. But not this year. This 22nd anniversary of the massacre will be the worst day since the tragedy for the many witnesses and survivors like me.
“With Bill C-19, the government is taking us irreversibly down the path towards an American-style culture, where gun ownership universally trumps public safety.”
The Harper government isn’t listening. It has no respect for Provost’s concerns, or the concerns of many other Canadians about the destruction of the long gun registry and the future of gun control in Canada. It will ram Bill C-19 through Parliament.
At least they had the decency not to do it on Dec. 6.
Originally published in The Sun Times in 2011.