The Trudeau government is moving forward with an expanded gun control agenda. In a mandated letter released last week, the Prime Minister directed Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Bill Blair to, “lead an examination of a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians.”
Pressure from city councils
This move comes on the heels of calls from Toronto and Montreal city councils this summer for the federal government to introduce handgun bans. With a near-unanimous vote in July, a Toronto City Council motion asked the feds to implement a ban on handgun sales within its municipal boundaries, while a unanimous motion from Montreal City Council passed in August demanded a nation-wide handgun ban.
Bill Blair’s mandate letter from the Prime Minister places, “a strong focus on results, …work…informed by performance measurement, evidence,” and consultation with stakeholders. In this vein, the minister and former Toronto Chief of Police is already receiving feedback from his former employees.
Police union skeptical of handgun ban
Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, the union representing the approximately 5,500 front-line officers in the city, expressed his frustration regarding the notion that a ban on handgun sales would reduce violent crime in his city. “There’s no way in my world or any world I know that this would have an impact on somebody who’s going to go out and buy an illegal gun and use it to kill another person or shoot another person.”
Regarding a ban on the sale of handguns, Toronto Mayor John Tory said during his 2014 mayoral run that, “calling for such a ban isn’t leadership. It’s an empty gesture.” His position has since changed, and Tory has now expressed his support for a handgun ban, citing information he received from Toronto Police indicating that about half of guns used in crimes in the city come from domestic sources, up from 10% in the past, according to the mayor. He suggests that handguns are finding their way into the hands of criminals as a result of legal gun owners selling them on the black market.
Bill C-71 to expand background checks, introduce other gun control measures
Despite Justin Trudeau’s exigence to Blair to avoid, “impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians,” his government has already introduced a series of measures earlier this year that would make the process of obtaining a firearm more onerous. Bill C-71, which is currently before the House of Commons would require the RCMP to expand background checks to cover the entire life history of potential gun-owners, as opposed to the current five-year requirement.
Additionally, the bill introduces continuous background checks, which would update a firearms Possession and Acquisition Licence holders’ file on a rolling basis with police record checks, make it easier for medical doctors to report to the RCMP on diagnosed conditions of patients and require special permits for gun owners to transport their firearms anywhere other than a shooting club or range.
More gun control on the fall legislative agenda?
The Trudeau government has indicated that they will not be taking any immediate or drastic action on gun control, though there is speculation as to whether a handgun ban or other measures will be introduced this fall in the government’s throne speech. If public opinion will guide the government’s approach to the gun control question, then it is significant to note that in a survey released this week by CTV and Nanos, 48% of Canadians support a ban on handgun ownership.