Justin Trudeau's So-Called Common Sense Gun Legislation
One thing about Canada, Canadians, and Canadian politicians is their obsession with the United States’ issues. I’ve said it before in a previous post, but when mainstream media focuses on every tweet or ill-advised statement made by Donald Trump, it takes attention away from pressing issues in our own country where it actually affects us. The same feeling of “why do we care so much?” for me extends to events that happen in the States as well. The most recent event that looks like it's going to influence Canada is the shooting that happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. After a teenager walked into the school and pulled the fire alarm, he open fired on students as they were leaving. Seventeen kids were killed and many more were injured. In the wake of the shooting, students, teachers, and parents from around the country held a march in Washington D.C. called “March for Our Lives”. The march saw an estimated 800,000 protesters march in solidarity against gun violence. Similar marches around the world were held as well, including in Montreal and Toronto. My heart goes out to every single one of the victims of this shooting, and any other shooting - especially one at a school where kids are supposed to be safe. But just because I can feel for everyone that was involved, I do not have to agree with them. Not only were protesters holding signs and rallying for safe schools and an end to gun violence, but a lot were calling for an entire overhaul of the American gun system, and some were even demanding that the government south of the border remove the Second Amendment from their Constitution.
I know that Canadians don’t have the same rights as Americans in terms of firearms, but I can still understand why pro-gun Americans are worried about these protests and people calling for the government to take their guns away. It’s exactly why the American founders decided to include the Second Amendment in their Constitution. It is there to allow the citizenry to protect themselves from the government if it ever became tyrannical. And for those of you who believe that semi-automatic rifles couldn’t fight off the American military, just look at places like Vietnam and Afghanistan where logistically the Americans should have been able to win decisively. I can understand the people who want law abiding gun owners to lose their weapons after the tragedy that happened, but policy made on emotional grounds rarely pan out to be successful.
My opinion on the emotional reaction to the Parkland shooting in the United States isn’t only in regards to what the government will do down there, but also in our own country. As of right now, you cannot purchase a gun in Canada without first taking the Canadian Firearms Safety Course, and then applying for their PAL (Possession and Acquisition License). In order to get a PAL, the potential gun owner has to be screened by the RCMP in order to make sure that they do not have a violent criminal record or have mental health problems in the last five years. The RCMP also have a three tiered weapons classification system; non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. Non-restricted firearms are any long rifle or shotgun that is not otherwise classified as restricted or prohibited. Most hunting rifles fall under this category. Restricted guns are pistols that aren’t prohibited, semi-automatic, with a barrel less than 470mm long, or that can be adapted to fire when reduced to less than a 660mm barrel. Prohibited firearms are pistols that are less than 105mm long (unless otherwise allowed due to shooting sports), automatic, or altered to make the weapon shorter (like sawing the barrel down). Canadians also cannot own a gun like Americans do, with the classic reason of “I want to protect my family.” Canadians can own guns only to use in target shooting or for hunting.
Now, that being said, why am I so upset about our government and guns? It all really comes from a new Bill being proposed by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government. Bill C-71, titled “An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in regards to firearms”, has been broken up into two parts. The first part is the more relevant for Canadians and is what I’m going to be discussing in detail. The second part is exclusively for the provincial government of Quebec to be able to access the information collected in the previous long gun registry and held by the federal government when the program was cancelled.
The first major change to our Firearms Act (1995) has to do with the background check of the buyer. As of right now, when a potential gun buyer tries to purchase a new weapon, he or she must show their valid license for the classification of gun, and go through a background check. The background check right now looks at the mental health and the criminal record of the buyer in the five years prior to the selling date. Bill C-71 sees to extend that from five years to the buyer’s entire life. It also amends the section in the Firearms Act that gives authorization to a restricted or prohibited gun owner to transport the gun, as they already have the authorization to have possession of it. If C-71 gets passed, the only authorized transfer of the weapon would be from the store to the buyer’s home, and from their home to approved gun ranges or shooting clubs in their province of residence. That means that if an owner of a restricted or prohibited gun needed to take it to a gunsmith for maintenance, or to a gun show, they would need to apply for more individual transfer permits. This new addition would only increase the government bureaucracy that is in charge of private gun ownership, and have the ability to track the whereabouts of guns, and therefore their owners - even though the owner of the restricted or prohibited weapon hasn't done anything wrong. They’ve actually done everything right as of now. Having to follow the rules and laws in order to legally purchase and possess a weapon shouldn’t result in them being demonized as people who are causing gun violence.
My issue with this part of the proposed Bill is that Justin Trudeau evidently has no clue on how to purchase a gun, and therefore should leave our already tough gun laws alone. In a tweet made on March 20, 2018, our Prime Minister stated that “if you want to buy a gun, by law you’ll have to show a license at the point of purchase. Right now that’s not a requirement.” I don’t know if Mr. Trudeau has ever even looked at the Firearm Act, but it says quite clearly in Section 23 (a) “a person may transfer a non-restricted if, at the time of the transfer, the transferee hold a license authorizing the transferee to acquire and possess that kind of firearm.” As for restricted and prohibited firearms, the same rule applies and is spelt out clearly in Section 23.2 (1). Justin is lying right to the face of Canadians, and relying on the assumption that Canadians don’t know the current gun laws as well as they maybe should. I get that we don’t have the gun culture that the Americans have due to their Second Amendment But as the Prime Minister, Justin should be honest to his citizens instead of lying to us in order to pass a clearly partisan law.
Another addition to the Firearm Act that would happen should the government pass Bill C-71 is a gun registry without calling it a gun registry. The Liberal Party, Liberal MPs, and the Prime Minister have all made statements saying that C-71 is not a gun registry. If you look back only six years, Canada’s government under Stephen Harper scrapped a gun registry because they do not work. There are a number of reasons to why the Harper government decided to eliminate the gun registry, and all for good reason. The first, and what I believe is a reason that Trudeau and the Liberals want to push Bill C-71 through is that it blames gun crime and violence on law-abiding gun owners. This is highly unfair to gun owners because between 2003 and 2010 of the nearly 5,000 murders in Canada, close to 1,500 had been committed by a firearm. Of that 1,485, a legally registered long gun was used 45 times (1% of murders in 7 years). The problem isn’t legally licensed weapons, it is the unregistered guns. And the people who use illegal firearms are most likely to be involved in gangs or organized crime, which account for most killings in Canada. In 2016, 141 out of the 611 homicides were either linked or suspected to be linked to gangs. I don’t know about you, but those numbers look a little bit higher than the numbers regarding legal guns involved in crime. Another big reason why some people were for a registry earlier as well as in 2018 is reducing violence against women. However, most homicide victims where a gun was the murder weapon are men. In 2012, Statistics Canada found that 67% of gun-related violent crime victims were male, and 84% of gun-related homicide victims were male. Firearm registries also do not protect women from their spouses, even though that is what the Liberal government has said. Of the around 600 annual homicides, 11 victims are women spouses. Statistics Canada also found that most spouses that are accused of homicide have a violent criminal record, and would not be able to legally purchase a gun with the laws already in place.
There is also a very believable argument that the registry is useless. Although police used the “registry” 13,000 to 17,000 times daily, it's a false assumption to think that frequency correlates to usefulness. Think about how many times you use Siri on an iPhone, only to have to go to Google yourself and search it that way because Siri hasn't improved since it was introduced. Also, the people who say the police use the registry that many times daily are confusing the long-gun registry with the Canadian Firearms Registry Online (CFRO). The latter only concerns licensing issues, where the long-gun registry has (or is supposed to have) information on the make or model, or other gun-specific related information. The long-gun registry also doesn't give police the information they need when it comes to the question of who has firearms. Like I've said earlier, criminals do not use registered guns for the most part, and those are the guns being used for a vast majority of crimes. Trusting the registry can get officers hurt or killed, because they could approach a situation assuming the culprit doesn't have a gun because the registry has falsely told them otherwise. The cost compared to the effectiveness of the registry shows that it isn't worth the money for a bad system, and is why it was rightfully canceled. Bill C-71 is indeed a firearms registration program because if it passes, it will be on the gun shop that sells the weapon to keep a record (something that they already do). So for Trudeau and his government to tell us that it is certainly not a gun registry is a lie straight to the faces of Canadians.
Adding more restrictions on guns and their owners when they haven't done anything to deserve the bad wrap the government is giving them will only lead to more restrictions, and possibly an outright ban. But gun bans are not the way to end violence, it only changes the weapon of choice. A perfect modern day example of why this won't work is what is happening in London, England right now. So far in 2018, the number of murders in the U.K. capital is higher than that of New York City. It's important to note here that New York is one of the states with the heaviest gun legislation, but not as heavy as England’s gun restrictions. And yet, even with the higher presence of guns in New York, London has had more murders so far this year. London unfortunately had 15 people murdered by shooting or stabbing February, one more life lost than New York City. The trend continued in March, with London having one more person killed than the 22 killed in the Big Apple. So far, the statistic of stabbings in London is one person stabbed to death every three days.
Like I said at the start of this post, making a policy change as an emotional reaction is never the right call. But that is exactly what London’s mayor has decided to push. Following the increase of knife violence in the city, Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted “No excuse: there is never a reason to carry a knife. Anyone who does will be caught, and they will feel the full force of the law.” There is so much wrong with that statement. First of all, what if you have a pocket knife longer than three inches (any longer is already prohibited in the city of London) in a backpack because you just got back from a camping trip? Or if you work at a shipping plant where you use a box knife, and it's in your pocket on the way home? There are a whole list of reasons like these that would give you reason to have a knife on you, and only one reason to worry about - trying to hurt someone. But the city’s population as a whole is being demonized by their municipal government if they carry a knife. That isn't the only ridiculous possible legislative change that Khan and the city government want to implement. The legislation that will be proposed soon will include a provision to prohibit the delivery of kitchen knives to a residence. So, if you cannot buy a knife at the store because carrying it home would mean you’re breaking the law, and you cannot have kitchen knives delivered to your home, how does the London government expect people to get their steak knives at all? What I see is something similar to what our federal government wants to implement in regards to transporting restricted and prohibited guns. If someone wants to walk home with a box of kitchen knives, they may have to go through a verification process through a government bureaucracy, meaning the government gets to stick its nose into more places it doesn’t belong.
The point of me bringing this up is that England already has very strict gun policies, and people are still being murdered or hurt. Restricting access to guns may decrease the amount of gun violence, but doesn’t necessarily mean that crime as a whole goes down. Gun reformists always point to Australia as its shining example of banning guns. But let’s look at another crime that was high in the same year. There were 14,394 sexual assaults in Australia in 1996. Now that guns have been banned, according to anti-firearm activists, sexual assault should go down as well, as it is a violent crime. But in reality, its gone up. The number of reported sexual assaults in 2017 was 23,052, a seven year high in Australia. Restricting people's’ access to firearms does not equate to a lower crime rate. In the Georgia town of Kennesaw, the municipal government made it a law that the head of every household needs to own a gun in 1986. Crime has dropped in the town of 33,000, with 2% of crime being violent and only one murder in the past six years. There isn’t very significant evidence that the law itself is the cause of a low violent crime rate or murder rate, but criminals have to think twice regardless if they want to break into a person’s home to steal or assault them.
Now back to the True North, strong and “free”. If Justin Trudeau was to come to us, and give us arguments that have been researched and authenticated by statistics, I would sit down and listen to what he has to say. But when he gives an uneducated argument that is easy to disprove, it is hard for Canadians including myself to respect his argument. Like I stated earlier, he clearly has never read the Firearms Act of 1995, and is making policy changes in an emotional knee-jerk reaction. In doing so the Prime Minister, who is technically the first among equals, is forcing his fellow Liberal Members of Parliament to abide by his rules. When T.J. Harvey, the MP for Tobique-Mactaquac and chair of the Liberal rural caucus voiced his concerns to Trudeau about Bill C-71, the Prime Minister “verbally attacked” the young Member of Parliament. Harvey was concerned with the lack of meaningful consultation with the rural caucus over the Bill, because it would affect the people who he represents quite a bit. So, Justin Trudeau tore a strip off of him because he decided he’d better stick up for his constituents, because you know, it is his job after all. Just because Trudeau wants to look like he is Mr. Progressive does not give him the right to attack members of his party who are more concerned about the people they represent than they are the face of the party. It isn’t right, and I give Harvey a round of applause for having the courage to stand up to a Prime Minister who has gotten mad at Liberal MPs for crossing the isle over the summer jobs program funding decision. Members of Parliament work for their constituents, and not the party. If only more MPs from all sides could do that.
I do believe that Bill C-71 is going to pass when it reaches the House, because of the majority government Canadians foolishly gave to the Liberals. It’s unfortunate, because like I’ve said twice now, emotional reaction policy making is usually not the best policy. If Trudeau wanted to crack down on the Canadian gun “problem”, he should look at the people crossing the border illegally, because that is how the illegal guns being used in crime are predominantly getting onto our streets. Demonizing law-abiding gun owners for the sake of looking good in the media is not how one should lead a country. Focus on the illegal gun and gang problem, and gun crime will drop.
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