Gun control advocates welcomed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement to ban the purchase, sale, transportation or importation of 1,500 models or variants of military grade and assault weapons, but say there’s still lots of work left to do.
Wendy Cukier, a Ryerson University profession and president of the Canadian Coalition for Gun Control, called Trudeau’s announcement a “good step forward,” but worried the new regulations wouldn’t be effectively enforced.
“Laws are only words on paper,” Cukier said. “If you don’t have the resources and the knowledge to actually implement them, they won’t work, and we have seen evidence in recent years that the provisions that are in the law are simply not being applied…. There’s lots of room for additional work, but certainly today is an important milestone.”
Trudeau said on Friday there was no need for civilians to own weapons that were created to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. Cukier echoed those concerns, saying that while shotguns and hunting rifles serve a purpose, but same couldn’t be said about guns like the AR-15.
She also argued it wasn’t an urban versus rural issue, and pointed to a recent Angus Reid poll as proof Canadians across the country think civilians should be prohibited from owning these types of firearms.
The Angus Reid poll showed roughly 80 per cent of Canadians either support or strongly support “having a complete ban on civilian possession of assault weapons.” Angus Reid conducted the survey from April 28-30. While they acknowledged the recent tragedy in Nova Scotia may have hardened some opinions, they also say their findings are consistent with polls taken in previous years.
“There’s a lot of effort to construct this as an urban versus rural thing,” Cukier said. “Military assault weapons and handguns serve no purpose in rural communities any more than they do in urban communities, so the idea that we should have one law for the cities and a different law for rural Canada doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.”
Cukier added that she hoped to see a federal handgun ban in the near future. While handguns are rarely used in mass shootings, they are the most common type of weapon used in firearm related violent crime. Since 2009, they’ve been used in roughly 60 per cent of all shootings.
On Sunday, Trudeau said banning handguns will be left to the municipalities.
While gun control advocates were pleased to see the federal government implement additional laws, Canadian gun owner rights groups called it “hastily crafted policy” that was both flawed and dangerous.
On Saturday, the National Firearms Association (NFA), the Canadian Sports Shooting Association (CSSA), the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA), and the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights (CCFR), united in calling for Bill Blair to step down as Public Safety Minister.
The four organizations are the largest in Canada that represent gun owners and the firearm business. They received a briefing from the federal government following Friday’s announcement, and later released statements accusing the government of being unable to answer simple questions about why certain firearms were included or left off the list.
“It’s entirely political,” CCFR executive director and CEO Rod Giltaca said on Friday. “If you watched the (government) press conference, it was a giant lecture about how despite them having all the respect in the world for gun owners, they have to peel these guns out of gun owners’ hands because of a handful of outlier events, and that’s just not true.”
Giltaca said no criminal will register or turn in a single rifle, meaning law-abiding gun owners are the only ones who will lose their firearms. He said many gun owners resent being treated like potential mass shooters, and argued that the weapons included in the ban are not used solely to kill people, as gun control advocates say.
“Half a million people in Canada use these types of firearms on a weekly basis for target shooting, and for recreational shooting, and the majority of the firearms that were reclassified as prohibited that are currently non-restrictive, many people use them for hunting,” he said. “They absolutely have a purpose, and the people who say they have no purpose are typically people who have no idea what that purpose is, nor are they concerned about what someone else would use a firearm for.”
Giltaca and the CCFR plan to fight the government in court to overturn the ban, and on Saturday they issued a statement urging firearm owners to avoid turning their guns over to the government while the organization consulted with legal experts.
“The level of incompetence in this act by the Liberal government is astounding,” the statement read. “As a result, we feel the Prime Minister and Canadians have been grossly underserved by the (Public Safety) Minister and call for his immediate removal from overseeing this process, and for the repealing of this regulation in order to consult with technical experts.”
During a media briefing on Sunday, Trudeau echoed his earlier comments on the ban, saying there was no reason for civilian gun owners to have these weapons, since they were designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. When asked by a reporter for evidence that banning these weapons would reduce gun violence, he said there were too many shootings where these weapons were used to kill innocent people.
“We’ve seen far too many mass shootings in which military style assault weapons were used to kill innocent Canadians, in St. Foy, recently in Nova Scotia, back at École Polytechnique 30 years ago,” Trudeau told reporters. “We’ve seen far too many cases in which these guns have caused devastation to families and communities. That’s why it was time to ban them.”
On Monday, Trudeau said they were still looking at how gun buybacks would work, and what measures they would take when it comes to grandfathering guns. He promised to talk to different parties, and discuss the issue further in parliament to find “the right answers for Canada.”
Trudeau said he wasn’t worried about how much a gun buyback would cost the federal government, since public safety was their top priority.