The Conservative opposition says the new firearms bill tabled by the Liberal government won’t do much to reduce gun violence and punishes law-abiding gun owners.
“Despite years of more gun control, bans, buybacks, and nearly a billion dollars spent, gun violence continues to go up in Canada,” said Conservative MP and public safety critic Raquel Dancho on Twitter on May 30.
“Today Trudeau doubled down on his failed approach and again promised Canadians it will keep them safe. It won’t, just as it hasn’t for years.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the bill in a press conference on May 30, flanked by a number of ministers and gun control advocates.
The bill has the same title as Bill C-21 tabled in the previous Parliament but goes much further.
The “Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms)” includes measures such as increasing the maximum incarceration for weapons offences from 10 to 14 years and creating a new offence for the alteration of a magazine’s lawful capacity.
The limiting of the transfer of handguns to businesses and exempted individuals is a new measure that will make it impossible for everyday Canadians to purchase, sell, or transfer handguns, effectively capping the number of such weapons in the country.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on May 30 that the number of handguns in Canada is currently evaluated at 1 million, and had grown by approximately 55,000 every year.
The new bill will also allow law enforcement to seek wiretap powers if they have reasonable grounds to believe that an individual is in possession of a firearm for which he doesn’t have a proper license.
Dancho criticized the new bill in light of Bill C-5, also tabled by the Liberals, which seeks to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for a number of firearms offences such as weapons trafficking and armed robbery.
“It’s upside down world,” she said.
The Liberals portray Bill C-5 as an anti-racism measure to reduce the proportion of indigenous and black people incarcerated.
Some Conservative leadership candidates also commented on the new proposed legislation.
“The Liberal Trudeau/Charest record on guns is a total failure. Their useless registries & soft sentences for gun criminals make the problem worse. Respect law-abiding gun owners, put dangerous criminals behind bars & stop gun smugglers at the border,” tweeted Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre on May 30.
Former Quebec premier Jean Charest said that Liberals are using gun policy to “wedge” Canadians.
“The fact is the true source of violent crime in our cities is caused by illegal guns used by gangs and criminals. That’s where we need to urgently focus our attention,” he tweeted.
Trudeau reacted to concerns the bill is mostly targeting lawful gun owners in a scrum on Parliament Hill on May 31.
“I think people need to be careful about misinformation and disinformation in this,” Trudeau said as he responded to a reporter’s question on the issue.
“We’ve explicitly and specifically not targeted law-abiding firearms owners because those who currently own and operate handguns safely, and store them safely, are not at all targeted by this legislation. We’re simply saying that we are freezing the market and in the future, it will not be possible to buy sell, transfer, or import handguns in Canada.”
Many measures in the bill will directly impact lawful gun owners such as declaring some prohibited firearms and triggering a government buy-back, or removing legally-owned firearms from owners deemed a risk to themselves or others.
There are some measures specifically addressing gun smuggling and gun violence by gangs and criminals. For example, the raising of maximum sentence from 10 to 14 years includes trafficking and export and import offences.
“We recognize that the vast majority of gun owners use them safely and in accordance with the law. But other than using firearms for sport shooting and hunting, there is no reason anyone in Canada should need guns in their everyday lives,” Trudeau said on May 30.
When asked if he’s worried there will be a rush to buy handguns before the ban, Trudeau said his government will still impose the freeze if Parliament is slow in passing the law.