Lance Crossley - Local News - Tuesday, March 22, 2005 @ 07:00
One of the nation's most outspoken critics of the government's strict gun control legislation came to town last Tuesday evening, asking local gun owners for their financial support in his upcoming trial.
Bruce Montague, who was arrested last September for not complying with regulations under Bill C-68, told a jam-packed crowd at the Haliburton fish hatchery that the issue goes beyond the mere ownership of firearms.
"It's not about hunting. It's not about target shooting. It's not about handguns or shotguns, or which gun might be classified as a good gun or a bad gun if there is such a thing. It's not even about the billions of dollars wasted on this ill-conceived law. It's about one thing and one thing only: our rights," said Montague, a gunsmith who has lost his business for refusing to register himself and his guns to the Canadian Firearms Centre.
Montague had been purposely trying to get arrested for the past two years as a public display of civil disobedience. On September 11, 2004, his wish finally came true when police arrested him at gun show in his hometown of Dryden, Ontario.
Since then, Montague has taken up the role of martyr among those opposed the controversial bill.
"I can't see how any Canadian can put up with this without getting angry," said Montague. "I think we should stay angry until this problem gets rectified."
Bill C-68 has been heavily criticized for grossly exceeded its original budget of $2-million. Auditor General Sheila Fraser has estimated it will cost more than $1-billion by the time all gun owners and their guns are registered. It also has drawn the ire of gun owners who feel the government is unfairly targeting the wrong people.
"I got the same interest at heart that everyone else does," said Montague in a one-on-one interview later on. "What we're recommending is why not implement a firearm prohibition registry. Let's have a registry of people who are prohibited from owning guns."
Montague was introduced by local conservative MP Barry Devolin, who said the amount of money spent on gun registration would be better served in other areas of law enforcement. He also couldn't resist taking a jab at the party in power responsible for Bill C-68, the Liberals.
"This is one issue where it's pretty easy to see where the parties stand," said Devolin. "Only the Conservative Party of Canada opposes it and we have stated that one of our first actions will be to repeal this bill."
Montague says that he needs $300,000 to mount an effective case against the government. If he fails, he faces up to 10 years in prison. His mother, Margaret, says she fully supports her son's fight but was clearly hesitant when asked if ten years in prison was worth it.
." The Haliburton resident took a long pause to consider her answer. "I think so. I respect him for what he's doing but I would feel badly if it happened."
Her son also said that the right to own arms is constitutionally protected and that the government is depriving them of the right to defend themselves. He rhetorically asked those present if they thought a police officer would arrive in time to save them if their lives were in danger.
"There is a good chance that they will arrive in time to fill out a report and draw that pretty little chalk line around your body," said Montague. "On the other hand, I don't know of a single individual who, if their life was threatened, or a bear came into their kitchen, wouldn't use a firearm if it was available to them."
It is likely the trial will commence sometime in the fall. Montague expects to hear a favourable verdict in the lower courts, especially in the gun-friendly region of Dryden. The situation becomes more uncertain should the case go to the Supreme Court.
"Part of what gave me the courage to do this," said Montague, "was the thought that no judge is going to throw me in jail for 10 years over this I hope."
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