C . A . G . E .
Citizens Against Government Encroachment -- Citoyens Anti Gouvernement Envahissant
 

 

 

 

PRIVACY

Privacy issues are of great concern to C.A.G.E. and we have been researching the matter for the past two years in hopes of preparing a powerful case study. Do our delight, the Economist has beaten us to the punch, saved us the trouble, and done an excellent job of it. We reproduce the article below in full support of the underlying theme of inquietude vis-a-vis increased government access to private information.

Civil liberties: surveillance and privacy

Learning to live with Big Brother

Sep 27th 2007

From The Economist print edition

The second article in our series looks at the new technologies for collecting personal information, and the dangers of abuse

IT USED to be easy to tell whether you were in a free country or a dictatorship. In an old-time police state, the goons are everywhere, both in person and through a web of informers that penetrates every workplace, community and family. They glean whatever they can about your political views, if you are careless enough to express them in public, and your personal foibles. What they fail to pick up in the café or canteen, they learn by reading your letters or tapping your phone. The knowledge thus amassed is then stored on millions of yellowing pieces of paper, typed or handwritten; from an old-time dictator's viewpoint, exclusive access to these files is at least as powerful an instrument of fear as any torture chamber. Only when a regime falls will the files either be destroyed, or thrown open so people can see which of their friends was an informer.

AP That old-time data: East Germany's files

These days, data about people's whereabouts, purchases, behaviour and personal lives are gathered, stored and shared on a scale that no dictator of the old school ever thought possible. Most of the time, there is nothing obviously malign about this. Governments say they need to gather data to ward off terrorism or protect public health; corporations say they do it to deliver goods and services more efficiently. But the ubiquity of electronic data-gathering and processing—and above all, its acceptance by the public—is still astonishing, even compared with a decade ago. Nor is it confined to one region or political system.

In China, even as economic freedom burgeons, millions of city-dwellers are being issued with obligatory high-tech "residency" cards. These hold details of their ethnicity, religion, educational background, police record and even reproductive history—a refinement of the identity papers used by communist regimes.

Britain used to pride itself on respecting privacy more than most other democracies do. But there is not much objection among Britons as "talking" surveillance cameras, fitted with loudspeakers, are installed, enabling human monitors to shout rebukes at anyone spotted dropping litter, relieving themselves against a wall or engaging in other "anti-social" behaviour.

Even smarter technology than that—the sort that has been designed to fight 21st century wars—is being used in the fight against crime, both petty and serious. In Britain, Italy and America, police are experimenting with the use of miniature remote-controlled drone aircraft, fitted with video cameras and infra-red night vision, to detect "suspicious" behaviour in crowds. Weighing no more than a bag of sugar and so quiet that it cannot be heard (or seen) when more than 50 metres (150 feet) from the ground, the battery-operated UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) can be flown even when out of sight by virtue of the images beamed back to a field operator equipped with special goggles. MW Power, the firm that distributes the technology in Britain, has plans to add a "smart water" spray that would be squirted at suspects, infusing their skin and clothes with genetic tags, enabling police to identify them later.

Most of the time, the convenience of electronic technology, and the perceived need to fight the bad guys, seems to outweigh any worries about where it could lead. That is a recent development. On America's religious right, it was common in the late 1990s to hear dark warnings about the routine use of electronic barcodes in the retail trade: was this not reminiscent of the "mark of the beast" without which "no man might buy or sell", predicted in the final pages of the Bible? But today's technophobes, religious or otherwise, are having to get used to devices that they find even spookier.

Take radio-frequency identification (RFID) microchips, long used to track goods and identify family pets; increasingly they are being implanted in human beings. Such implants are used to help American carers keep track of old people; to give employees access to high-security areas (in Mexico and Ohio); and even to give willing night-club patrons the chance to jump entry queues and dispense with cash at the bar (in Spain and the Netherlands). Some people want everyone to be implanted with RFIDs, as the answer to identity theft.

Across the rich and not-so-rich world, electronic devices are already being used to keep tabs on ordinary citizens as never before. Closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) with infra-red night vision peer down at citizens from street corners, and in banks, airports and shopping malls. Every time someone clicks on a web page, makes a phone call, uses a credit card, or checks in with a microchipped pass at work, that person leaves a data trail that can later be tracked. Every day, billions of bits of such personal data are stored, sifted, analysed, cross-referenced with other information and, in many cases, used to build up profiles to predict possible future behaviour. Sometimes this information is collected by governments; mostly it is gathered by companies, though in many cases they are obliged to make it available to law-enforcement agencies and other state bodies when asked.

Follow the data

The more data are collected and stored, the greater the potential for "data mining"—using mathematical formulas to sift through large sets of data to discover patterns and predict future behaviour. If the public had any strong concerns about the legitimacy of this process, many of them evaporated on September 11th 2001—when it became widely accepted that against a deadly and globally networked enemy, every stratagem was needed. Techniques for processing personal information, which might have raised eyebrows in the world before 2001, suddenly seemed indispensable.

Two days after the attacks on New York and Washington, Frank Asher, a drug dealer turned technology entrepreneur, decided to examine the data amassed on 450m people by his private data-service company, Seisint, to see if he could identify possible terrorists. After giving each person a risk score based on name, religion, travel history, reading preferences and so on, Mr Asher came up with a list of 1,200 "suspicious" individuals, which he handed to the FBI. Unknown to him, five of the terrorist hijackers were on his list.

The FBI was impressed. Rebranded the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, or Matrix, Mr Asher's programme, now taken over by the FBI, could soon access 20 billion pieces of information, all of them churned and sorted and analysed to predict who might one day turn into a terrorist. A new version, called the System to Assess Risk, or STAR, has just been launched using information drawn from both private and public databases. As most of the data have already been disclosed to third parties—airline tickets, job records, car rentals and the like—they are not covered by the American constitution's Fourth Amendment, so no court warrant is required.

In an age of global terror, when governments are desperately trying to pre-empt future attacks, such profiling has become a favourite tool. But although it can predict the behaviour of large groups, this technique is "incredibly inaccurate" when it comes to individuals, says Simon Wessely, a professor of psychiatry at King's College London. Bruce Schneier, an American security guru, agrees. Mining vast amounts of data for well-established behaviour patterns, such as credit-card fraud, works very well, he says. But it is "extraordinarily unreliable" when sniffing out terrorist plots, which are uncommon and rarely have a well-defined profile.

By way of example, Mr Schneier points to the Automated Targeting System, operated by the American Customs and Border Protection, which assigns a terrorist risk-assessment score to anyone entering or leaving the United States. In 2005 some 431m people were processed. Assuming an unrealistically accurate model able to identify terrorists (and innocent people) with 99.9% accuracy, that means some 431,000 false alarms annually, all of which presumably need checking. Given the unreliability of passenger data, the real number is likely to be far higher, he says.

Those caught up in terrorist-profiling systems are not allowed to know their scores or challenge the data. Yet their profiles, which may be shared with federal, state and even foreign governments, could damage their chances of getting a state job, a student grant, a public contract or a visa. It could even prevent them from ever being able to fly again. Such mistakes are rife, as the unmistakable Senator "Ted" Kennedy found to his cost. In the space of a single month in 2004, he was prevented five times from getting on a flight because the name "T Kennedy" had been used by a suspected terrorist on a secret "no-fly" list.

Watching everybody

Another worry: whereas information on people used to be gathered selectively—following a suspect's car, for example—it is now gathered indiscriminately. The best example of such universal surveillance is the spread of CCTV cameras. With an estimated 5m CCTV cameras in public places, nearly one for every ten inhabitants, England and Wales are among the most closely scrutinised countries in the world—along with America which has an estimated 30m surveillance cameras, again one for every ten inhabitants. Every Briton can expect to be caught on camera on average some 300 times a day. Few seem to mind, despite research suggesting that CCTV does little to deter overall crime.

In any case, says Britain's "NO2ID" movement, a lobby group that is resisting government plans to introduce identity cards, cameras are a less important issue than the emergence of a "database state" in which the personal records of every citizen are encoded and too easily accessible.

Alongside fingerprints, DNA has also become an increasingly popular tool to help detect terrorists and solve crime. Here again Britain (minus Scotland) is a world leader, with the DNA samples of 4.1m individuals, representing 7% of the population, on its national database, set up in 1995. (Most other EU countries have no more than 100,000 profiles on their DNA databases.) The British database includes samples from one in three black males and nearly 900,000 juveniles between ten and 17—all tagged for life as possible criminals, since inclusion in the database indicates that someone has had a run-in with the law. This is because in Britain, DNA is taken from anyone arrested for a "recordable" offence—usually one carrying a custodial sentence, but including such peccadillos as begging or being drunk and disorderly. It is then stored for life, even if that person is never charged or is later acquitted. No other democracy does this.

In America, the federal DNA databank holds 4.6m profiles, representing 1.5% of the population. But nearly all are from convicted criminals. Since January 2006 the FBI has been permitted to take DNA samples on arrest, but these can be expunged, at the suspect's request, if no charges are brought or if he is later acquitted. Of some 40 states that have their own DNA databases, only California allows the permanent storage of samples of those charged, but later cleared. In Britain, where people cannot ask for samples to be removed from the database, it was recently proposed that the best way to prevent discrimination is therefore to include the whole population in the DNA database, plus all visitors to the country. Although this approach is commendably fair, it would be extremely expensive as well as an administrative nightmare.

In popular culture, the use of DNA has become rather glamorous. Tabloids and television dramas tell stories of DNA being used by police to find kidnappers or exonerate convicts on death row. According to a poll carried out for a BBC "Panorama" programme this week, two-thirds of Britons would favour a new law requiring that everyone's DNA be stored. But DNA is less reliable as a crime-detection tool than most people think. Although it almost never provides a false "negative" reading, it can produce false "positives". Professor Allan Jamieson, director of the Forensic Institute in Glasgow, believes too much faith is placed in it. As he points out, a person can transfer DNA to a place, or weapon, that he (or she) has never seen or touched.

Wiretapping is too easy

More disturbing for most Americans are the greatly expanded powers the government has given itself over the past six years to spy on its citizens. Under the Patriot Act, rushed through after the 2001 attacks, the intelligence services and the FBI can now oblige third parties—internet providers, libraries, phone companies, political parties and the like—to hand over an individual's personal data, without a court warrant or that person's knowledge, if they claim that the information is needed for "an authorised investigation" in connection with international terrorism. (Earlier this month, a federal court in New York held this to be unconstitutional.)

Under the Patriot Act's "sneak and peek" provisions, a person's house or office can likewise now be searched without his knowledge or a prior court warrant. The act also expanded the administration's ability to intercept private e-mails and phone calls, though for this a court warrant was supposedly still needed. But in his capacity as wartime commander-in-chief, George Bush decided to ignore this requirement and set up his own secret "warrantless" eavesdropping programme.

The outcry when this was revealed was deafening, and the programme was dropped. But in August Mr Bush signed into law an amendment to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allowing the warrantless intercept of phone calls and e-mails if at least one of the parties is "reasonably believed" to be outside America. So ordinary Americans will continue to be spied on without the need for warrants—but no one is protesting, because now it is legal.

Where's your warrant?

According to defenders of warrantless interception, requiring warrants for all government surveillance would dramatically limit the stream of foreign intelligence available. Privacy should not be elevated above all other concerns, they argue. But would it really impede law-enforcement that much if a judge was required to issue a warrant on each occasion? Technology makes wiretapping much easier than it used to be—too easy, perhaps—so requiring warrants would help to restore the balance, say privacy advocates.

Britain has long permitted the "warrantless" eavesdropping of its citizens (only the home secretary's authorisation is required), and few people appear to mind. What does seem to worry people is the sheer volume of information now being kept on them and the degree to which it is being made accessible to an ever wider group of individuals and agencies. The government is now developing the world's first national children's database for every child under 18. The National Health Service database, already the biggest of its kind in Europe, will eventually hold the medical records of all 53m people in England and Wales.

Even more controversial is Britain's National Identity Register, due to hold up to 49 different items on everyone living in the country. From 2009, everybody is to be issued with a "smart" biometric ID card, linked to the national register, which will be required for access to public services such as doctors' surgeries, unemployment offices, libraries and the like—leaving a new, readily traceable, electronic data-trail. America plans a similar system, with a string of personal data held on a new "smart" national driver's licence that would double up as an ID.

Companies are also amassing huge amounts of data about people. Most people do not think about what information they are handing over when they use their credit or shop "loyalty" card, buy something online or sign up for a loan. Nor do they usually have much idea of the use to which such data are subsequently put. Not only do companies "mine" them to target their advertising more effectively, for example, but also to give their more valued (ie, higher-spending) customers better service. They may also "share" their data with the police—without the individual's consent or knowledge.

Most democratic countries now have comprehensive data-protection and/or privacy laws, laying down strict rules for the collection, storage and use of personal data. There is also often a national information or privacy commissioner to police it all (though not in America). Intelligence agencies, and law-enforcement authorities often as well, are usually exempt from such data-protection laws whenever national security is involved. But such laws generally stipulate that the data be used only for a specific purpose, held no longer than necessary, kept accurate and up-to-date and protected from unauthorised prying.

That all sounds great. But as a series of leaks in the past few years has shown, no data are ever really secure. Laptops containing sensitive data are stolen from cars, backup tapes go missing in transit and hackers can break into databases, even the Pentagon's. Then there are "insider attacks", in which people abuse the access they enjoy through their jobs. National Health Service workers in Britain were recently reported to have peeked at the intimate medical details of an unnamed celebrity. All of this can lead to invasions of privacy and identity theft. As the Surveillance Studies Network concludes in its recent report on the "surveillance society", drawn up for Britain's information commissioner, Richard Thomas, "The jury is out on whether privacy regulation...is not ineffective in the face of novel threats."

Boiling the frog

If the erosion of individual privacy began long before 2001, it has accelerated enormously since. And by no means always to bad effect: suicide-bombers, by their very nature, may not be deterred by a CCTV camera (even a talking one), but security wonks say many terrorist plots have been foiled, and lives saved, through increased eavesdropping, computer profiling and "sneak and peek" searches. But at what cost to civil liberties?

Privacy is a modern "right". It is not even mentioned in the 18th-century revolutionaries' list of demands. Indeed, it was not explicitly enshrined in international human-rights laws and treaties until after the second world war. Few people outside the civil-liberties community seem to be really worried about its loss now.

That may be because electronic surveillance has not yet had a big impact on most people's lives, other than (usually) making it easier to deal with officialdom. But with the collection and centralisation of such vast amounts of data, the potential for abuse is huge and the safeguards paltry.

Ross Anderson, a professor at Cambridge University in Britain, has compared the present situation to a "boiled frog"—which fails to jump out of the saucepan as the water gradually heats. If liberty is eroded slowly, people will get used to it. He added a caveat: it was possible the invasion of privacy would reach a critical mass and prompt a revolt.

If there is not much sign of that in Western democracies, this may be because most people rightly or wrongly trust their own authorities to fight the good fight against terrorism, and avoid abusing the data they possess. The prospect is much scarier in countries like Russia and China, which have embraced capitalist technology and the information revolution without entirely exorcising the ethos of an authoritarian state where dissent, however peaceful, is closely monitored.

On the face of things, the information age renders impossible an old-fashioned, file-collecting dictatorship, based on a state monopoly of communications. But imagine what sort of state may emerge as the best brains of a secret police force—a force whose house culture treats all dissent as dangerous—perfect the art of gathering and using information on massive computer banks, not yellowing paper.

http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9867324

 

 

 

Pierre Lemieux has been resisting state encroachment into his private life since long before C.A.G.E. even existed.  Gun control is one of the issues where he clashes with our all powerfull government.


Pierre Lemieux . Becoming the hunted

Citizen Special

Published: Thursday, November 08, 2007


The hunting season has a special flavour this year, for I am a daily criminal. No joke: my crime is potentially punishable by 10 years in jail according to the Criminal Code, as amended in 1995.

Several months ago, when my firearms licence expired, as it does every five years, I filed all the required documents but with a little tweak. I refused to answer question 6(d): "During the past two (2) years, have you experienced a divorce, a separation, a breakdown of a significant relationship, job loss or bankruptcy?" I wrote, "My love affairs are none of your business."

This is verbatim. I filled the form in English, in order to put it for everybody to see on the World Wide Web. If you are as interested in my life as the state is, check my completed form at www.pierrelemieux.org/policecanada/cafc-cfc.html.

I had provided the same answer on the similar forms I had to fill in 1995 and 2001. At that time, the bureaucrats issued my licence anyway. The bureaucrats are the Sûreté du Québec (the Québec provincial police), which administers federal firearms controls on behalf of the Canada Firearms Centre. Not that they are worse than their counterparts outside of Quebec; they are probably not.

But things have obviously changed. This time, after I submitted the renewal documents, they did not reply, nor even acknowledge receipt. I conjecture that they have become much more self-righteous and assured of their ultimate victory against our traditional liberties, now that they have a law-and-order government in Ottawa. Without a gun licence, I am now a daily criminal.

Note that the firearms licence is something different from the so called "gun registry." Even if your guns are legally registered -- indeed, especially if they are legally registered! -- you cannot keep them if you don't have the personal gun licence that expires every five years.

Hunting or walking armed in my forest, I often think of my French-Canadian ancestors and especially the coureurs des bois -- those who, in the 17th and 18th centuries, spent months travelling in the woods to trade fur with the Indians.

Some of them, like Pierre-Esprit Radisson (1636-1710) and Médard Chouart Des Groseilliers (1618-1696?), were also voyagers and explorers. Returning from one of their expeditions, Radisson and Des Groseilliers were fined and saw their furs seized by the French governor. They defected to New England, where they persuaded merchants to finance them, contributing to the creation of the Hudson Bay Company. Too bad Radisson and Des Groseilliers are not with us today. They would no doubt view our rulers with the same contempt they had for the French governor. And they would not beg for a gun licence.

I live on a 24-acre piece of forest land, in the middle of nowhere: last telephone pole on an unpaved road, broadband Internet by satellite only, and just the wild forest out of my office window. But this does not change my paper crime. Even on my own land, in my own house, in my own bedroom, I cannot keep legally acquired guns without, every five years, telling the state about my love affairs, and submitting to other indignities.


They will claim their interest in my love life stems from the fear I will shoot a girlfriend, or commit suicide (as if my body did not belong to me). How altruistic of them! Strangely enough, they don't ask questions about my race, or if I am into drugs or alcohol, all of which are more important statistical factors in crime. Similarly, when granting gun licences, they don't take into consideration the fact that, compared to the general population, police officers' suicide rate is often higher, lawyers' suicide rate is six times higher, women with breast implants are three times more likely to commit suicide, and so are compulsive gamblers, say, in government casinos.

Who has any interest in my not having guns? I can think of only two sorts of guys: thugs and tyrants.

Pierre Lemieux is an economist in the Department of Management Sciences at the Université du Québec en Outaouais.

E-mail: pierre.lemieux@uqo.ca

 

 

The following article was written by Professor Pierre Lemieux, one of Québec's leading and truly Libertarian thinkers, in the aftermath of the tragic Virginia Tech murders. As can be expected both from the author, and from the fact that C.A.G.E. has chosen to reproduce the article here, the thesis will be counter to the usual hue and cry for more state control.

Virgiana Tech

Pierre Lemieux

2007-04-16

 

Polytechnique (Québec), Dunblane (United Kingdom), Jonesboro (Arkansas), Columbine (Colorado), Nickel Mines (Pennsylvania), Dawson College (Québec), Virginia Tech (Blacksburg) today – what do these and several other mass killings of students and children have in common? The answer is not obvious.

What is obvious, though, is at least one factor they don’t have in common: the liberty to keep and bear arms. We have to look at the phenomenon with some time perspective. Mass killings were rare when guns were easily available, while they have been increasing as guns have become more controlled. In the early 20th century, guns were easily available to common people in all civilized countries; in many cases, individuals could freely carry them concealed. These countries included England, Canada, many parts of the U.S., and France. In fact, before the 60s, mass killings were rare.

Dunblane occurred in a society where, after seven decades on increasing gun controls, it was very difficult for a simple citizen to own guns, especially handguns, and illegal to carry them virtually anywhere. Similarly, Dawson occurred after 15 years of galloping gun control, to the point where, in Canada, it is even illegal to bear arms on your own property. Even in the U.S., which has been leading the way in the horror stories, federal gun controls have increased nearly continuously since the 1960s, and none of the massacres was committed by people who were legally allowed to have guns where there. In fact, these killings typically occur in gun-free zones.

In Blacksburg today, the tragic spectacle of tens, if not hundreds, of heavily armed policemen, with at least one armoured vehicle, all powerless to prevent a single gunman from killing and maiming more than 30 people reminds us of a dire fact: it is impossible to be totally protected against madmen, except by turning society into a convent or a jail.

One question needs to be asked, though. What if a student or a professor had been armed today at Virginia Tech? This possibility was very remote since guns are illegal on the Virginia Tech campus, and non-criminals usually try not to become criminals. At Dawson, what if the security guard who, we are told, helped some students flee and was not far from the killer had been armed? In all these tragic events, how many students wished, before dying, that they had a gun?

I am not claiming that the freedom of non-criminals to carry guns would be a panacea. Obviously, when you live in a society where madmen are intent on massacring defenceless students, including young women, there is no panacea. Yet, there must a reason why these madmen don’t go to, say, the University of Utah, where people licensed to carry guns can freely bring them on campus and in university buildings. There might be a reason why the Dawson killer, who had a car and apparently no special reason to target that specific college, did not go instead to the National Police School, about 150 kilometres from Montreal. I was there once: all students are armed.

Given this momentous phenomenon of senseless mass killings of young people, something other than the low probability of being stopped before doing much damage must be at play. Economists don’t like to think in terms of changes in preferences: after all, there is no reason to believe that mankind is intrinsically different today than it was fifty years ago. However, economists know that choices, for good or evil, are made not only on the basis of individual preferences, but also given the constraints imposed on these preferences by the social environment.

Some decades ago, most people, including unruly youths and, I would guess, even some criminals, were under certain moral constraints that they were ashamed to break. Although this is banal to say, it remains true that these moral constraints have crumbled, to be replaced by the naked force of the state. Individuals have become entitled dependents of a state that defines morality for them, besides providing for their happiness.

Another, perhaps related, hypothesis is the demise of culture. By culture, I simply mean what Marc Fumaroli (in L’État culturel, Paris, 1991) called “la culture cultivée” (learned culture): the knowledge of, and the joy of learning through, the intellectual and artistic adventure of mankind. With culture generally comes the love of life and the good things in life: wine, fine food, sex, smoking... The young illiterates who now come out of public schools seem just ripe for a nasty, brutish, and short life.

There have always been madmen who, in order to leave the only mark they could leave on history, waged destruction. Erostrates, who, in the 6th century B.C., and precisely for this reason, burned the temple of Artemis in Grece comes to mind. I wonder, though, if he would have killed schoolchildren or young women even if he had had the power to.

If I try to avoid wishful thinking and ignore what I have been fighting against for decades (and still am), my prediction is not very optimistic. Gun control and people control will grow. Individuals will become more and more infantilized. But except if the state grows from soft to hard totalitarianism, uncultured madmen will proliferate. (If hard totalitarianism comes, these uncultured madmen will man the state.) Senseless mass killings will become a permanent fixture and, after guns are outlawed, they will be committed with cars, light planes, bombs, fire, etc. And each time, the clamour will mount for more control, perhaps focussed on scapegoat minorities.


For this article and others like it, please visit Pierre Lemieux's website at:

http://www.pierrelemieux.org/


 


 

 

The following article was recently (September 2006) printed in the Toronto star, and is represented here with the author’s permission, and in hopes of broadening the sober debate that this issue requires.

Kimveer Gill’s weapons were registered, but it did not stop him from killing

says Rondi Adamson

Sep. 17, 2006.

RONDI ADAMSON

I have to admit, I’ve been wrong about the gun registry in the past. I always thought that it should be scrapped, for the simple reason that criminals don’t obey the law. It turns out, however, that the registry is useless for another reason. Some criminals do obey the law, dutifully registering their guns before using them to slaughter people.

On Wednesday, at Montreal’s Dawson College, Kimveer Gill used three apparently legally registered firearms to kill (as of this writing) one person, and injure and traumatize many others. In one sense, at least, he was law-abiding. But given what he was able and willing to do with his registered weapons, how can it be argued that the registry is anything but a misuse of funds, time and energy?

Even had Gill’s weapons not been registered, what difference would that make? It isn’t paperwork that will prevent the kind of violent crime Gill committed. That kind of crime can probably never be completely prevented. Mandatory sentencing, tougher bail and parole legislation, while laudatory initiatives in terms of other crimes, would not have stopped Gill. He had no police record. Hiring more police officers, while also a good idea would most likely not have stopped him. And even sounding the alarm at the sight of his nihilistic web profile might not have helped. Were we to scrutinize every young male who posts similar ramblings (an impossibility), there would be few police left for anything else. Not to mention the crucial matter of freedom of expression, be that "expression" disturbing or not. All of this is tragic, but no less true for that. The registry of long guns, and more talk of gun control in general, came about, in part, as a reaction to the 1989 Montreal massacre. But, if anything, one could argue that the 1989 tragedy and Wednesday’s events, would more likely have been stopped earlier on, if not prevented, by

supporting the right to bear arms. Had all, or many, students and faculty at L’École Polytechnique, or Dawson College, been armed, Marc Lepine and Kimveer Gill would have been taken out quickly. I’m not suggesting Canada should be like Tombstone, Arizona. I’m arguing that it is fatuous to insist these rampage killings would be stopped by stricter gun laws. We should, after incidents such as this, ask questions. We should look for solutions, or at least improvements. But the inevitable political manipulations that take place in the aftermath of the Lepines and the Gills are dismaying. The reflexive reaction on both sides — the latte-drinking, pro-gun control urbanites, vs. what the latter view as assorted loners, rubes and crazies, is not productive.

But as a latte-drinking urbanite, who has no interest in owning a gun of any kind, I see no societal benefit to making rubes, crazies, or anyone else, register theirs.

Rondi Adamson http://wonkitties.blogspot.com