Liberals downplaying concerns about new gun safety legislation

(Photo by Gregory Sekulic)

The federal Liberals introduced new gun-control legislation in the House of Commons this week, and were quick to dismiss any comparisons to the long-gun registry implemented by the party in the ’90s.

“It’s absolutely not the same thing. There’s really no parallel even to make,” says Mark Holland, Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Public Safety, in the interview below.

The MP for Ajax joined us to discuss Bill C-71, and what it means for law-abiding gun owners concerned about both burdensome oversight and public safety, with law enforcement statistics showing a rise in gun crimes in rural areas of the country.

If the bill is passed, the background check for people applying for a license to buy guns would be extended from the current five-year timeframe to the individual’s entire lifetime. “(Whether someone is allowed to buy a gun) will be the determination of an arm’s-length government body that will look at an individual’s history to ascertain if there’s anything that would cause concern in a contemporary context to commit violence or be mentally unstable,” says Holland.

Anybody selling a gun would also be required to track sales and verify that the buyer has a valid license.

Some critics are concerned the record-keeping requirement for sellers could create a “back-door” registry, but Holland says unlike the long-gun registry, the government will not have access to this information. “Even the police, if they want that information, have to receive judicial authorization (such as a search warrant) and demonstrate that there’s a reasonable belief that the weapon was used in a crime.”

(Photo by Gregory Sekulic)

The initial response from the Conservatives, who opposed and repealed the long-gun registry, appeared to be to criticize the Liberals on concerns about public safety rather than the additional oversight.

“Unfortunately, this legislation has no new measures to combat gang violence in Surrey, gun violence in the GTA, and escalating crime rates in our rural communities,” says Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen and Conservative Shadow Minister for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Pierre Paul-Hus in a statement. “Liberals cannot be trusted when it comes to firearms legislation because they fail to tackle criminals who use guns to commit violent crime, meanwhile they treat law-abiding firearms owners as criminals. Conservatives will adamantly oppose any attempt by the Liberals to create a new long-gun registry…”

Holland says the party hopes to get Bill C-71 through the House and possibly the Senate before Parliament breaks for the summer in late June. “We’d like to see these provisions in place this year.”

What do the changes mean for existing gun-owners? Where will the line be drawn on who can buy  guns in the future? What are the implications of entrusting the RCMP (and repealing the current cabinet authority) with classification of guns? How will these rule changes actually keep guns out of the hands of potential criminals? We asked Mark Holland, Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Public Safety, these questions and more — listen here:

Bill C-71 includes the following measures (via Public Safety Canada):

  • Enhance background checks on those seeking to acquire firearms – by eliminating the existing provision that focuses those checks primarily on just the five years immediately preceding a licence application.
  • Enhance the utility of those background checks and the effectiveness of the existing licensing system – by requiring that whenever a non-restricted firearm is transferred, the buyer must produce his/her firearms licence, and the vendor must verify that it is valid.
  • Standardize existing best practices among commercial retailers to maintain adequate records of their inventories and sales. These records would be accessible to police officers on reasonable grounds and with judicial authorization, as appropriate.
  • Ensure the impartial, professional, accurate and consistent classification of firearms as either “non-restricted” “restricted” or “prohibited” – by restoring a system in which Parliament defines the classes but entrusts experts in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to classify firearms, without political influence.
  • Bolster community safety in relation to restricted and prohibited firearms (mostly handguns and assault weapons) – by requiring specific transportation authorizations to be obtained whenever restricted or prohibited guns are moved through the community, except between a residence and an approved shooting range. The rules for transporting non-restricted firearms (such as legally owned rifles and shotguns) will not change.
 

Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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