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Activists pressure Canada to follow New Zealand gun law changes
Activists pressure Canada to follow New Zealand gun law changes
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Activists pressure Canada to follow New Zealand gun law changes 

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has made international headlines over the past couple of weeks for her handling of the country’s gun laws since the Christchurch mosque massacre. Ottawa is now under heavy pressure to follow in her footsteps.

New Zealand’s gun ban on what they call “military-style” semi-automatic firearms has Canadian activists paying attention, now ready to apply pressure to the federal government. They’re calling on Trudeau to pass timid reforms included in Bill C-71 before taking on larger more controversial changes, such as handgun bans.

“The government of New Zealand has swiftly and responsibly responded to the atrocities … by almost immediately committing to ban the type of weapons that facilitate such extreme violence,” said gun control advocate Nathalie Provost in an interview with CBC, a survivor of the 1989 gun massacre at École Polytechnique in Montreal that claimed the lives of 14 women.

“Yet here in Canada, 29 years after Polytechnique, twelve years after (the Dawson College shooting), four years after the murder of three Moncton RCMP officers and two years after our own massacre at a peaceful mosque in Quebec City, the Liberals are still dithering on what to do about legal assault weapons.”

Ardern has issued a cabinet order banning New Zealanders from owning semi-automatic firearms, which was one of the types of guns that was used in the Christchurch massacre along with different types of shot guns. The order bans ownership of semi-automatic firearms that are capable of being used with a detachable magazine able to hold more than five rounds.

Ardern is also moving to ban accessories like bump stocks, which enable shooters to fire semi-automatic rifles in a full-automatic fashion using their own recoil to fire faster. Firearms common to hunters and farmers, “such as rifles with small, non detachable magazines” will be permitted, says the new law.

Though activists are calling out for changes, there is still plenty of dispute as to how necessary these changes are, or even how much of the population fully supports more sweeping gun law changes. A recent study conducted found that nearly 80 per cent of those surveyed were not in favor of the new gun laws.

Canada has firm laws in place regarding magazine sizes. These laws vary depending on the firearm, generally abiding by the laws that handguns can carry up to ten cartridges, with rifles being restricted to five.

According to the CBC, gun rights advocates are targeting “assault rifles,” a nebulous term that contains no legal meaning in Canada. Gun activists are focusing on guns that look menacing, rather than more practical features that actually measure their lethality, such as rate of fire or firepower.

Fully automatic firearms have not been available to the Canadian public for decades. Possession and Acquisition Licenses (PAL) are required for any gun owner in Canada, along with a lengthy background check and a training course before even applying for the licesnse. Canadians already register restricted (and prohibited) firearms, such as handguns, with the police.

There is the argument though that the demonizing of leagl firearms is counter productive. Much of the gun crime in Canada is perpetrated by criminals using handguns smuggled from the U.S., meaning that they are illegally obtained. There is also a growing number of cases of legal gun owners illegally selling their guns to those who are not eligible.

“The lion’s share of firearms homicide is committed by illegal gun owners. No methodologically valid study has been able to find evidence that stricter gun laws, or even gun bans, have reduced general homicide rates or spousal homicide rates,” said Gary Mauser in an interview with the CBC, a professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University and a noted gun rights advocate.

According to data from StatsCan presented last week at a Senate committee, out of all the violent gun crimes in 2017 in Canada, 59 per cent involved a handgun, 18 per cent involved a rifle or a shotgun, 6 per cent involved a fully automatic firearm, sawed-off rifle or shotgun and 17 per cent involved a firearm-like weapon or an unknown type of firearm.

In Toronto, since 2009, most firearm-related violent crime involved a handgun. With most of these crimes being with illegal handguns, it highlights a massive difference in the type of gun crime that occurs between a major city like Toronto, and smaller more dispersed populations. The rest of Canada’s gun crime involves handguns 52 per cent of the time.

“For over 30 years legal gun ownership in Canada has increased but homicide rates have decreased,” Mauser said. “How big a threat is a licensed firearms owner? In Canada, moose kill more people each year than registered and licensed firearms owners.”

The Trudeau Liberal government’s Bill C-71 now stands before Senate. In it are laws outlining new regulations, like enhanced background checks for anyone applying for a PAL, mandatory record-keeping for firearms retailers, cahnges to the authorization to transport rules, and the reclassification of two types of firearms.

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