Is gun control a relevant election issue?

Bill C-71 was sponsored by Liberal Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, and introduced in March 2018.

In Goodale’s speech introducing the bill, he said the government wouldn’t reintroduce a long-gun registry.

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He spoke of an increase in gun crime in the country and said the proposed bill would offer solutions.

Among the bill’s proposals were longer background checks. Previously, there was a five-year limit on how long factors could affect someone's ability to hold a license. The bill proposed to eliminate the limit.

Such a measure was initially proposed by Conservative MP James Moore, according to Goodale’s speech as he introduced the bill.

The bill also said determining an applicant's eligibility to hold a firearms license, the judge or chief firearms officer must consider if someone was treated for a mental illness “that was associated with violence.”

People who have dealt with mental health issues in which no violence was associated wouldn't be affected, Goodale said.

Businesses also have increased responsibilities. Among those include recording and retaining, for a minimum of 20 years, the transferee's license number and various information pertaining to firearms.

Another provision is the classification of firearms by RCMP experts. Firearms are classified as non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. Previously the government was able to overrule the RCMP regarding firearms classifications. The bill proposed the RCMP make the call.

“This legislation is a measured and appropriate response to help keep communities safe,” Minister of Border Security ad Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair said in a statement. Blair used to be Toronto's police chief.

The bill raised alarms in the firearms community.

The Canadian Shooting Sports Association interpreted the record-keeping rules as a form of “backdoor registry” for business owners. According to a release, the CSSA was concerned the legislation would lead to a “wide open gun ban window,” and criticized the RCMP for deciding how firearms are classified rather than elected officials.

Goodale called the authority granted to the RCMP "impartial" and would use technical expertise rather than “political considerations” to determine gun classifications.

The CSSA called the decision politically motivated.

Criminologist Gary Mauser criticized Bill C-71 in a written submission to the public safety committee.

“Canada has a gang problem, not a gun problem. Criminal violence is driven by a small number of repeat offenders, not by many Canadians who legally own firearms."

He wrote the country's law-abiding gun owners already have a number of regulations they must follow, and the Liberal claim that criminals get their guns from domestic sources was misleading.

Research indicates that gang crime “is driven by smuggled firearms that flow to Canada as part of the illegal drug trade,” Mauser wrote.

When Bill C-71 came to the public safety committee, the committee added threats and conduct “communicated to a person [over] the Internet or other digital network” would be considered when determining an applicant's eligibility to hold a firearms license.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, along with Falk, voted against the bill, and the Conservative party was the only party in the House of Commons to consistently do so. Scheer promised to repeal if the Conservatives are elected.

Scheer's approach to deterring gang crime involves more punitive measures against gang members than already exist, including limiting parole and bail opportunities for repeat violent offenders, and “tougher sentences.”

Some predict gun control will become a relevant election issue. Gun control activists wanted a handgun ban, particularly in light of mass shootings in other countries. Mayors of major Canadian cities also support the handgun ban.

In a recent News-Optimist poll, 60 per cent of respondents agreed gun laws should be federal. 40 per cent agreed gun laws should be local.

 

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