The path of greatest resistance
Not everyone is willing to make genuine sacrifices to defend their freedoms
Pierre Lemieux - October 17, 2005
This year is the 100th birthday of the province of Saskatchewan. One of the celebrations was the "Celebrate Saskatchewan Pancake Breakfast," held in Saskatoon on September 2. Paul Martin was there, and also, not coincidentally, members of the Canadian Unregistered Firearm Owners Association.
Joe Gingrich and Jack Wilson were there to deliver their notarized letters of non-compliance with gun controls into the prime minister's own hands. Gingrich, a 58-year-old retired dentist in Whitefox, Sask., tells how he approached Martin:
"How are you?" replied the statocrat.
"I want you to reconsider the Firearms Act and stop it," explained Gingrich in substance, while pulling the letter from his pocket.
"All right," said Martin, receiving the document.
"Thank you very much."
The letter declared: "I, Joe Gingrich, do solemnly swear that I own a British 303 firearm serial #S7c7156. I further swear that: (a) I do NOT have a firearms license, (b) this firearm is NOT registered... I understand that my ownership and possession of this firearm violates your Firearms Act of 1995.... I refuse to surrender my rights..."
Other members of CUFOA have signed similar notarized declarations over the past few years, including Edward Hudson, a retired veterinarian in Saskatoon, and Allister Muir, a small-business owner in Stellarton, N.S. These heroes are taking big risks: when Leviathan decides to strike, they could spend many years in jail, besides getting criminal records anyway. Bruce Montague, a former gunsmith in Dryden, Ont., and also a signatory of a notarized letter of non-compliance, is actually being prosecuted.
If, contrary to what happened in the U.K. and Australia, Canadians still have some chance of preserving their traditional right to keep and bear arms, it is mainly thanks to these heroes' principled and open civil disobedience.
The bad news is that time is on the side of the state. The Firearms Act and the accompanying Criminal Code amendments are now 10 years old, two-million firearm owners have complied, and CUFOA's fight is only sporadically in the news. The steamroller of the state continues to advance.
How can we stop it? The economic theory of collective action provides some relevant lessons (see Mancur Olson's classic 1965 book, The Logic of Collective Action). Resistance to the state is what economists call a "public good," that is, a good from which everybody benefits once it is provided, but for the production of which everybody has an incentive to let his co-citizens do the work. The vast majority of individuals will not take big risks and support large costs to resist the erosion of their liberties because they will get the same benefits if others produce resistance through their own sacrifices. Thus, except for heroes, everybody free rides. It is only if and when an avalanche of disobedience starts that the mass of secret dissenters will show up. Ottawa statocrats know this.
What, then, can be done to start the avalanche? Parallel to the heroes' stance, we need an effective co-ordination of many small and less costly acts of resistance. Just to take one example, if only one per cent of the 200,000 individuals who renew their firearm licences every year refused to answer one or two of the most intrusive questions--an action with little risk--the system would soon crumble. The Edmonton-based Law-abiding Unregistered Firearms Association has led such actions in the past (like overloading the Canada Firearms Centre's registration system, in which I myself proudly participated). To restore our liberties, more harassment and sabotage acts are needed.
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