By Connor Lynch
OTTAWA — The federal government last month proposed stronger controls on gun-ownership and neither pro gun-control or pro-firearm groups are pleased. Pro gun-control groups say the bill doesn’t go far enough and pro-firearm groups say the new rules would go too far.
Bill C-71 was tabled by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and passed second reading on March 28. The bill has since gone to committee for debate, discussion, and amendment, before returning to the House of Commons for third reading.
Among other things, the new law would require gun retailers to keep records of inventories and sales, purchasers of rifles and shotguns would be required to present a valid licence, and background checks on people acquiring guns would go back their whole lives, not just five years.
Executive vice-president of communications for the National Firearms Association, Blair Hagen, said that two aspects of the bill will most affect farmers: Enhanced background checks, and the new rules on transferring non-restricted firearms. On background checks: “Any incident you were involved with in your entire life, could be used to deny you a firearms licence.”
The new rules on transferring firearms would mean that not only would the buyer have to have a valid firearms licence (the current rules), but any transfer would require the approval of the firearms centre. “Under this bill, you will have to call the firearms centre and get approval before you can sell (your gun),” Hagen said. He added the government would collect information on the sale, tied to a reference number that could be used to create provincial registries of firearms.
Firearm groups have suggested that the bill is just a by-proxy revival of the long gun registry and will do nothing to curb gun violence. It’s “civil disarmament,” National Firearms Association (NFA) president Sheldon Clare told Global News, adding that the new rules are “another unnecessary set of firearms control regulations and that will have nothing whatsoever to do with preventing any crime.”
Clare also said that the “research is very clear,” that gun-control legislation introduced in 1976 had “no effects whatsoever on crime rates, violent crimes, spousal violence or anything to do with firearms issues.”
Between 1976 and 2016, shooting deaths across Canada fell from 258 to 223, according to Statistics Canada. Numbers hit their lowest in 2013, when there were 134 shootings deaths across Canada.
The Coalition for Gun Control meanwhile described the law as “tepid at best,” and released a laundry list of what it would rather see done, including: Restoring controls on handguns and other restricted weapons; restore screening and licensing for all firearms; ban military assault weapons and sniper rifles, and update lists of restricted weapons based on police advice; establish a system to track all gun sales nationwide, without allowing untrackable secondary sales; and harmonize injury reporting across the country (according to the coalition, it’s only mandatory for a doctor to report a gun injury or death in Ontario).
Public safety critic MP Pierre Paul-Hus (Conservative — Haute-Saint-Charles, Que.) in debate at committee said the bill would “do little to nothing to improve public safety,” and described it as an “insidious way of bringing back the registry.
“We see this as yet another bill that will just annoy law-abiding people and will do nothing to target criminals, which is deeply disappointing because I think that is the most important issue here,” he said.