Canada’s gun control – On February 14th, we found ourselves tuned in to the news watching another horrific gun attack – this time in Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 innocent people were killed and 19 others seriously injured by a young man who had easy access to a firearm – not just any firearm, but an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
As students protest and march across the US in unprecedented numbers, taking the initiative to put an end to gun deaths, many Canadians are wondering about our own gun control laws and if they are enough. Do they really protect us?
Canada is not immune to mass shootings. Just here in Quebec alone, we have seen the horrors of the École Polytechnique massacre in December of 1989, the Dawson College shooting in September of 2006 and more recently the Quebec City Mosque shootings in January of 2017.
Although we have far stricter gun laws than the US, they are far from perfect – and they never will be. Did you know that the AR-15 rifle is not really banned in Canada? They are regulated for use only on gun ranges and not for hunting and their magazines are limited to 4 rounds (in the US it is at 30 rounds) – but they are still legally available for purchase. In order to purchase an AR-15 legally, one must have a specific licence for restricted firearms and there are much stricter rules concerning acquisition, storage, transport and use. You would be surprised how many other guns like it are still legally available.
Firearms in Canada fall into three different categories: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. Non-restricted weapons are generally long rifles or shotguns used for hunting. You can review the entire Firearms Act at: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/F-11.6
According to the Criminal Code, a ‘prohibited’ firearm is:
A – a handgun that has a barrel equal to or less than 105 mm in length, or is designed or adapted to discharge a 25 or 32 calibre cartridge, but does not include any such handgun that is prescribed, where the handgun is for use in international sporting competitions governed by the rules of the International Shooting Union.
B – a firearm that is adapted from a rifle or shotgun, whether by sawing, cutting or any other alteration, and that, as so adapted, is less than 660 mm in length, or is 660 mm or greater in length and has a barrel less than 457 mm in length.
C – an automatic firearm, whether or not it has been altered to discharge only one projectile with one pressure of the trigger.
D – any firearm that is prescribed to be a prohibited firearm.
No matter what laws are in place – as long as there are guns in the world, there will be deaths by guns. Their use may be justified in the hands of trained professionals like the military, police officers and even responsible hunting practices – but not in the hands of civilians.
The Liberal government has been slow in rolling out their promised new gun control legislation, it was supposed to be introduced by the end of 2017, but has been delayed and now expected sometime this spring. They did implement some new measures, but keys issues still need to be addressed. Prime Minister Trudeau promises better gun control laws for background checks, restricted weapons and better record-keeping by vendors.
Then there are the changes and laws introduced during the Stephen Harper era to be addressed, such as Bill C-42 that ‘allows for restricted and prohibited weapons to be freely transported without a permit’ which the Liberals promised to repeal – and still maintain that they will. And there are other issues under review like the long-gun registry abolished by the Conservative party in 2012 – where they destroyed all the records in order ‘to ensure that no future non-Conservative government can recreate the registry’.
The Conservatives also made it clear that if any province wanted to set up its own registry it would get no help from the federal government. But in Quebec, the province started working to create its own long-gun registry after the national one was dismantled. In October 2012, after a legal challenge by the National Firearms Association and a pro-gun lobby group tried to block it, a Quebec judge upheld the constitutionality of the registry – and on January 29th 2018, Quebec’s own long-gun registry came into effect.
But will Canada’s new legislation have any real impact, will it keep us safer?
Although Canada has far less deaths caused by guns than in the United States (one is more likely to be shot to death in the US than to die in a car accident in Canada) – we are still number four in the OECD (an international democratic/economic organization with 35 member countries).
It is time to bring forth legislation which actually achieves the goal of securing the safety of all Canadians and future generations. It is time for our leaders to stop their political dissent and wrangling over gun laws – that historically goes back to 1892.
Let us just do it right, for once and for always. Our children should not ever have to fear going to school, never again.
Bonnie Wurst – firstname.lastname@example.org