A federal government proposal to — among other things — allow municipalities to ban the transportation and storage of handguns in Bill C-21 is being panned by local Members of Parliament.
The bill also proposes banning approximately 1,500 models of “assault-style” firearms, creating a voluntary federal buyback program for those weapons, increased criminal penalties for gun smuggling, funding for prevention of and enforcement against gun violence, and a further ban on airsoft guns that resemble firearms and are capable of discharging at between 366 and 500 feet per second.
“It’s stunning (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) believes this is the way to go,” Souris-Moose Mountain MP Robert Kitchen said. “When we look at the riding of Souris-Moose Mountain, we have law-abiding gun owners who are doing the things they should be doing. For me, (the existing gun laws were) working and the avenues were there. It’s about protecting Canadians and ensuring they are safe in their homes and communities. Those provisions are already there under Section 5 of the Firearms Act.”
Regina-Qu’Appelle MP Andrew Scheer said Bill C-21 further punishes those already following existing gun laws, without addressing those illegally using and transporting firearms.
“The Liberal approach to gun control has proven to be a failure in the past,” Scheer said. “It’s lazy government to ask people who are already following the rules to follow more rules ... (and) it’s a lot harder to go after the gangs and gun smugglers.”
Scheer, himself a firearms owner, added the Conservative Party had introduced its own bill two weeks ago to address gun smuggling and illegal gun use, which was defeated in the House of Commons at the second reading stage.
Scheer opposed handing gun ban responsibilities to municipalities.
“I think this is pure political pandering,” Scheer said. “People who live in cities who may want to impose gun bans, these are people who are already following the laws. If you own a handgun and live in a city, you’ve already got it registered. You already use safe storage and already comply with laws on where you can transport it. The only people who will follow the new laws are the people who are following the old laws. The drug dealer who has one to protect himself while illegally selling narcotics is not going to care one iota whether they are breaking a new law.”
Both Scheer and Kitchen said the new gun legislation appears more targeted to the Liberal government’s re-election prospects when more focus needed to be placed on COVID-19 and vaccine rollouts.
As the Canadian Constitution places municipalities under the control of provincial governments, it is possible for this federal legislation to create several confusing scenarios. One is provinces could step in to overrule municipalities and strip that newfound power away.
Saskatchewan has already taken the bat out of the hands of municipal governments, having passed a law in June 2020 banning municipalities from passing gun-related bylaws.
In other provinces where municipalities are allowed to pass these bylaws, there are fears it could create a patchwork of different handgun storage and transportation bylaws. That could make it difficult for any handgun owner to know if they are in compliance with local laws when travelling with their firearms.
That affects hunters in particular, especially Americans who come to Canada to hunt, said Arden Curts, president of the Save-A-Goose branch of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation.
“It might lead to fewer people going out because they don’t want to lose their guns,” Curts said. “It could mean fewer people take out (hunting) licenses. If they don’t buy licenses, the government gets less money from hunting. That could affect guys coming up from the States. If you are banning local guns, it could affect tourism and outfitters.”
Curts had suggested in a previous conversation with The Forum that increased penalties for gun-related crimes of any kind might be a more responsible approach from Ottawa.
He added increasing restrictions on rural gun owners could have financial impacts to livestock producers as well, noting that many farmers use firearms to protect their livestock from coyotes and other animals who attack livestock in fields.
Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum