Green Party member hopeful to influence party’s firearms policy

Typically, Canada’s federal Green Party is seen as a left-leaning political entity. And typically, Canada’s left-leaning parties are fans of gun control, and restricting or outright banning firearms (historically, right-leaning parties have also followed this pattern). Now, one Green Party insider is trying to change that.

Nick Tan, a British Columbia resident, has been circulating a proposed new firearms policy for the Green Party, posting it online and trying to raise support among his fellow party members.You can see the whole proposal and supporting documents, research and reference here. Basically, he’s collecting support, and hoping to get the party to adopt the statement below:

The GPC acknowledges and supports Canada’s safe and accountable firearms owners by transferring regulation of non-criminal activities from the Criminal Code to a responsive administrative regulatory framework; the collaborative development of clear and equitable evidence-based firearms control regulations; and the strengthening of laws which seek to reduce criminal firearms-related violence.

In other words, he’s advocating for a sensible approach to firearms control.

Why is Tan doing this, and why now? He’s been working on this policy proposal for months (see below). Now, Tan believes a recent move by the Conservative Party of Canada, to reject adding ‘climate change is real’ to the party’s policy book, might make some members interested in other political options. He is hoping the Green Party can provide an alternative, by adopting the policy above.

The Q&A below has more details on the process so far:

Calibre: What’s your background and motivation for this? 

Nick Tan: There are a couple of dimensions to my background that are relevant to my policy proposal.  First, as a firearms owner, I’ve had my PAL for over 10 years.  I do recreational target shooting with my Ruger 22/45 Mk 3 Hunter and my CZ Shadow.  I’d like to eventually earn my black badge and get into small game hunting. Second, I’ve been a supporter of the Green Party of Canada (GPC) for the last few elections because I believe that environmental issues are important.  My firearms policy proposal is my first attempt to get involved in politics beyond voting.  I don’t think protecting the environment and responsible gun ownership and usage are mutually exclusive.  Third, I’m a government auditor so my career revolves around addressing issues with the design and implementation of government policies.

As for my motivation, one of the problems with firearms politics in Canada is the sheer amount of ignorance about firearms by people who are not licensed firearms owners.  Since I was a member of the GPC and it is known to be an anti-gun party by the firearms community, I figured it would be a good place to start. As I got more invested in the GPC’s grassroots policy process and engaged in dialogue with other GPC members, I began to encounter lots of misconceptions about firearms so I knew I was on the right track.  When I looked at their official gun control policies, I found them all to be problematic to some degree. That’s when I decided to draft a policy proposal around firearms to highlight the need for better gun control policies and to promote awareness and discussion among GPC members.

Typically, the Green Party is seen as left-leaning; why do you think the party would be open to less-restrictive gun control? 

My goal is to dispel misconceptions and ignorance about firearms through education and to foster respectful and meaningful dialogue.  Whether my efforts will ultimately translate into authentic understanding and policies that serve the individuals and groups that are impacted by firearms is out of my control.  But a political party cannot develop sound policies if it does not or will not make the effort to identify root problems and explore potential solutions with relevant stakeholders.  I hope that my policy proposal and outreach efforts contribute to the adoption of principles and policies that support licensed firearms owners, reduce violent firearms-related crime, and address other issues such as firearms-related suicide.

How has your feedback been from within, and without, the party so far?

Feedback from within the GPC has been a spectrum.  I’m very happy that I found enough support from GPC members to have my proposal get accepted as a legitimate proposal and to qualify for the next stage of the process: an online policy prioritization vote.  But I need more support if the proposal is to survive this stage and continue in the grassroots policy process. I posted “Ask a Gun Owner” threads on various platforms frequented by GPC members and supporters and I was happy to answer questions from individuals who were legitimately interested in learning more about firearms. At the same time, I’ve experienced ridicule and mockery which is disappointing considering that a core GPC principle is diversity and inclusion.

Feedback from the firearms community has been more limited as my focus has been on outreach and education with GPC members.  I’ve experienced a similar spectrum of support, curiosity and ridicule but the most perplexing response so far has been disbelief that a person could be a GPC member and a firearms owner at the same time.  We really do exist!

Firearms politics is divisive when it should be the opposite.  Let me share a story with you:  I was in Alabama for work once and there was a fair amount of tension and apprehension during the initial meeting because I was both Asian and Canadian.  Talk about awkward!  Somehow, discussions went off on a tangent and I mentioned that I shot pistols.  That led to an extensive and animated conversation about guns.  It was a major icebreaker and any tension and apprehension completely dissipated because we were able to connect over firearms.  I wish such breaking down of barriers would happen more often in Canada so that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing with the GPC.

What’s next?

Tan says it’s slow, but his policy proposal is working its way through internal party power structures. He originally submitted the proposal in November, and higher-ups in the Green Party are looking at them now, as the party’s gone through recent leadership changes that put things on hold.

What can we expect? It’s hard to imagine the left-leaning GPC embracing firearms rights, particularly with former leader Elizabeth May recently saying Canadians do not have rights to bear arms, or rights to property at all. You can find left-leaning parties and groups supporting firearms ownership in other countries, particularly on the fringes of US politics, but it’s never been common in Canada. However, in Tan’s case, at least he is willing to try.