by Chris Eger
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, leader of the country’s Liberal Party, is listening to calls from Montreal and Toronto to study more gun control (Photo: Adam Scotti/Prime Minister’s Office)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reportedly instructed a newly appointed government minister to examine a sweeping gun ban.
As part of a series of mandate letters issued to new ministers, Trudeau tasked Bill Blair, who recently agreed to serve as Canada’s Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, to “play a leading role in our efforts to reduce gun violence.”
Among Blair’s marching orders: support the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on the passage of Bill C-71, a controversial piece of gun control legislation in Parliament and lead a study on “a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians.”
The move comes after a gunman killed two and injured more than a dozen in a shooting in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, in July. In the immediate aftermath, Toronto Mayor John Tory asked why “anyone” needs to have a gun and joined with city officials in an effort to ban handguns in the city. Montreal lawmakers followed up on Toronto’s effort last month with a call for the federal government to go even further and ban the possession of assault weapons and handguns by anyone except members of the military and police officers.
A poll commissioned by CTV News released Monday found that about two out of three respondents said they would at least somewhat support a move to ban handguns nationally.
As previously reported by Guns.com, Canada’s firearm laws are strict, with a possession and acquisition license, or PAL, needed to legally own a firearm. With the license comes extensive background checks, mandatory training, and letters of reference as well as about $200 in fees.
Further, there is no such thing as Castle Doctrine or Stand Your Ground for justifiable homicide in Canada. No guarantee of a right to keep and bear arms. No concealed carry other than for narrow exceptions. The government fundamentally sees gun ownership as a tool for target shooting and hunting only, with many types of guns popular in the U.S. highly restricted in the country — which require another degree of licensing. Nonetheless, underground gun factories have surfaced in several provinces as a means for criminals to duck regulations.
Despite the rhetoric from urban city leaders, police groups in the country to include the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Toronto Police Association have said they are not calling for any legislative changes where it comes to gun control, with TPA President Mike McCormack going so far as to say a national ban on handguns will not stop gun crime.
Vahan Kololian, a co-founder of the Mosaic Institute, a Toronto-based think tank, penned an opinion piece for HuffPost Canada arguing that not just handguns and assault weapons but all the possession of all firearms in the country should be criminalized.
Gun rights groups argue that the upcoming federal election next year in Canada is driving politics on gun policy in the country.
“There is a criminal gang violence problem in major cities that is not being addressed but is very controversial,” Blair Hagen, the executive vice president of Canada’s National Firearms Association, told Guns.com in an email. “Recently the media and certain politicians have tried to allege that the source of crime guns is chiefly those stolen from legal owners, or illegally transferred through ‘straw purchases.’ These allegations are unsubstantiated, incorrect and unsupportable.”
According to government statistics, about 130 homicides were committed in Canada with handguns in 2016, with the largest increases stemming from gang-related homicides, principally in Toronto and Vancouver.
Hagen said that the study ordered by Trudeau comes in tandem with the additional threat posed by possible passage of C-71, which he argues re-introduces a long gun registry to the country through data collection and will ban over 14,000 semi-auto rifles of two different types.
“Canada is already facing a renewed assault on gun rights from the Liberals through Bill C-71 which is already before Parliament, and which could be passed by the Senate and receive Royal Assent this Fall,” said Hagen. “The gun issue is going to be a major one in the next federal election in a way it wasn’t in the 2016 federal election where it didn’t really manifest itself as one.”