Conservatives only consulting with gun-enthusiasts about new gun legislation, says NDP

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

The Harper government has introduced a major overhaul to Canada's gun laws.

During a press conference at a shooting range in northern Ontario, on Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney announced his government's intention to introduce the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act would:
  • Merge the Possession Only License (POL) and the Possession and Acquisition License (PAL);
  • Restrict the ability of provincial Chief Firearms Officers to make arbitrary decisions;
  • End paperwork around Authorizations to Transport by making them a condition of a license;
  • Require mandatory firearms safety courses for first-time gun owners; and
  • Strengthen firearms prohibitions for those who are convicted of domestic violence offences.

The government has also fired back against an RCMP decision, from earlier this year, to essentially prohibit the so-called Swiss Arm Classic Green rifle.

In February, to the chagrin of gun enthusiasts, the RCMP reclassified the high-end collectors' rifle as prohibited. Blaney said that the new rules would give allow owners of those guns an amnesty until at least 2016.

"As some of you may recall, not so long ago a bureaucratic decision was rendered and turn over night law abiding citizens into criminals without any notice," he said.

"This is in line with our Conservative government's efforts to keep Canadians safe while making sure we do not over-burden law abiding gun owners."

[ Related: Shooting community angered after rifle suddenly appears on prohibited list ]

Gun advocate Gary Mauser, a professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University, says he welcomes the proposed Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act.

"It includes many reasonable changes to the overly complex firearm regulations," Mauser, who was a member of the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee for former Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, told Yahoo Canada News.

"The current firearms law is a hodgepodge of complex and needless restrictions that were introduced by previous anti-gun governments and are unfair and useless.

"I particularly appreciate the proposal to limit the powers of provincial Chief Firearms Officers, the introduction of a grace period after a firearm licence expires, and upgrading of the POL to PAL status."

There, of course, is opposition from the anti-gun lobby.

The Coalition for Gun Control told Yahoo that they were currently unable to comment on the new rules but referenced a June 2014 report — commissioned by them — comparing Canadian's gun control laws to those in ten other countries.

"The countries studied each tackle the question of gun control and curbing illicit trafficking in different ways and at different levels," notes the report.

"The resounding observation is that Canada stands alone in weakening its controls on rifles and shotguns."

In 2012, the Toronto Star's editorial board does a good job of chronicling the Tories' gun legislation.

"The Tories have...curried favour with gun advocates with legislation to make sure gun dealers don’t have to keep records of who buys rifles and shotguns. They’ve deferred rules to track firearms more easily. And they’ve repealed gun show regulations."

NDP Public Safety Critic Randall Garrison says that the assertion that Canada has loosened gun laws is "a fact" and that the proposed legislation indicates that the Tories are only consulting the gun enthusiasts.

"In the NDP, we've always said that the police are... an important voice as well as community groups in the urban areas where gun violence is a problem," he told Yahoo Canada News.

"So there's a need to consult everybody who is affected by the gun regulations, not just the gun enthusiasts which the Conservatives have done."

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