On October 20, Kash Heed, the Solicitor General of British Columbia, introduced new legislation that would effectively ban body armour in the province of BC (see here for the news story).
To put it rather bluntly, Bill 16-2009 (Body Armour Control Act) is an abomination of legislation that should never have seen the light of day. In an effort to reduce gang violence, Mr Heed has proposed that only those who can prove a legitimate need for body armour should be allowed to purchase and possess it in BC. Additionally, the legislation proposes that the province should create a permit system and a registry to keep track of all citizens who are legally allowed to own body armour. Anyone found to be in illegal possession of this armour could face up to a $10,000 fine and/or 6 months in jail.
I can see several problems with this proposed law, right off the top.
1) There’s this pesky little document known as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Section 7 goes something like this:
“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
Somehow I really don’t think that the government’s argument, that a passive safety device needs to be restricted just because a criminal might use it, really qualifies as a “principle of fundamental justice”.
2) The logic (and I use that word very loosely) employed by Mr Heed, is that if access to body armour is restricted, gangsters will no longer be able to use it, taking away their “sense of security”, and therefore reducing the number of shootings in our cities.
By that same “logic”, in order to reduce high speed chases, we should ban seatbelts. After all, without them, criminals would no longer feel “safe” speeding and would stop running away from police. Right??
Does anyone else smell the BS?
3) By definition, a gangster is a criminal. They have proven time and again that they have no regard for the laws of our society. So by what stretch of the imagination does the Solicitor General believe that even one single gang member will abide by this one? If, for some unlikely reason, a criminal wasn’t able to purchase body armour on the black market within BC, it wouldn’t exactly be a hardship to legally purchase it in either Alberta or the Yukon. The last time I checked, there wasn’t a manned border between provinces and territories in this country.
4) Say a criminal is caught committing a crime, and the crown throws the book at him, charging him with every firearm, weapon and body armour offense they can think of. Do you really think he’ll ever be convicted of any of those lesser charges? Of course not. As has already been proven time and again with the Firearms Act, the lesser charges will be plea-bargained away in order to make the “important” charge stick.
So under this proposed new law, as usual, it will only be the general public who are convicted. It will be the men and women who innocently forget to renew their permit, or make a simple mistake on their forms, who will suffer. They are the ones who will be found guilty, convicted of “paper crimes”, while the real criminals go about business as usual.
5) As I previously mentioned, one of the key components of this proposed Act is a permit and registry system. Everyone who has a legitimate need for body armour will have to fill out a form and apply for a permit to possess body armour. Every person who is deemed eligible to possess body armour will be recorded in a database. It will be that person’s responsibility to keep the permit current, and to ensure that all the information contained in the registry is correct.
So, where is the money to operate this permit and registry system going to come from? Setting up the permit office(s) and starting the registry will be an expensive proposition, and that money will be coming straight out of the taxpayer’s pockets. At a time when the global economy is in turmoil, you’d think the government could find something better to spend our money on.
6) Continuing on the theme of the registry, one more question comes to mind: How does making a list of law-abiding citizens have any affect whatsoever on crime? I’m sure the criminals are just shaking in their boots right now thinking about this proposed new law. Shaking with laughter that is. Our government and lawmakers are going to be so busy making lists of honest people that they’re not going to have time to go after the criminals!
This Bill has just passed first reading in the provincial legislature, so there is still time to try and stop it. Even if it does pass (which I’m afraid it will), it would likely be overturned on a Charter Appeal. But it shouldn’t need to be.
Why do our lawmakers insist on continually putting forward such flawed legislation? If I, an average Jane, can immediately see so many holes in their argument, why can’t they? Our leaders can’t really be this naïve and misguided can they?
There is a part of me that still wants to believe that these are just honest men and women doing the best they can for our society. But the jaded cynic in me is winning out. I can’t help but wonder why every single new law seems to strip away more of our rights. I can’t help but wonder why so many people are so eager to willingly give up their basic freedoms.
What makes me really sick though, is that this gradual erosion of our rights, always seems to be done in the name of “public safety”. Call me crazy, but here’s a thought: if our leaders are truly interested in public safety, shouldn’t they be focusing on the criminals, rather than making lists of the innocent?