Liberals propose bill that will tighten up Canada’s gun laws

Public Safety Minister tables Bill C-71 on Tuesday March 13th 

By Brandy Bond, Staff Writer

In the United States the controversy surrounding gun control has always been a topical issue. Recently, this topic has become even more prominent with the immense totality of mass shootings that have taken the lives of many innocent children and adults. However, despite the tragic reality that many face and the consistent fight opposing these existing gun laws such as the “March for Our Lives” movement, the United States government still stands by their current practices.

Although our Southern neighbours are known for their issues of gun control, Canada is also experiencing some controversy around the topic. On March 13th, a new bill, Bill C-71 was tabled by Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale in hopes to improve gun control within Canada. However, this change in legislation has frustrated many who believe that Canada’s gun laws are already very restrictive and that the changes only affect legal gun holders rather than criminal ones. Unlike the United States, Canada has a much more intensive system that makes it difficult for people to buy, use, and operate guns. Additionally, because of this regulatory system, gun usage is much more monitored, effectively decreasing the number of instance of Canadian gun violence. However, despite these effective regulations on guns, Canada has definitely not entirely eliminated the controversy.

With gun violence still affecting the lives of many Canadians today, the Liberal government seeks to implement additional rules and regulations to make access to guns an increasingly difficult process. Bill C-71 requires new mandatory record-keeping practices and includes new provisions to enhance existing background checks for those seeking a firearms license. The background checks will now require the RCMP to examine a person’s entire life history for potential red flags, whereas the previous standard only assess the previous five years.

Under the new legislation, where an individual seeks to obtain a license, the RCMP would have to complete an extensive background check that takes into account criminal, mental health, addiction, and domestic violence records before authorising a person for a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL). Moreover, once a license has been issued, these background checks are then run through an ongoing process called “continuous eligibility” which includes daily searches of police and court databases to see if the license holder has become a public safety risk. In addition to this new background check, the bill also requires the enforcement of mandatory record-keeping, and proposes new classifications on guns, as well as new amendments to regulations on the transportation of restricted and prohibited firearms.

In terms of the new classifications on guns, the Liberals plan on returning to the previous RCMP system, which puts firearms under three categories: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. This regulation is a departure from the previous Harper-era rule which granted the cabinet power to override such a decision. With the new regulation posed by the bill, two types of firearms – the Ceska Zbrojovka CZ-858 rifle and certain Swiss Arms firearms – will be classified as “prohibited.” To date, the government estimates that there are roughly 700 of these firearms currently in circulation, and due to this, they plan to provide an amnesty period for owners to comply with the new requirements.

Along with the dismissal of the RCMP gun classifications, under the Harper-era, Authorization to Transport (ATT) clearance was automatically given upon receiving a firearm license. But with this new Bill, this automatic approval is eliminated and individuals who plan to use their guns anywhere other than a shooting club or range will now have to separate ATT document. Currently ATTs are not required for non-restricted firearms such as rifles and shotguns and this bill will not change that particular provision.

Although it is evident that the Liberal government has good intensions, many are still strongly opposed to the new bill. Greg Illerburn, who chairs the Recreation Firearms Community of Saskatchewan states that provisions such as license checks, and reclassification of some popular guns simply make it tougher for people acting within the law. He explains that “The legislation, it only addresses legal firearm owners. They haven’t shown us how they’re going to get criminals to comply, or how criminals are going to be affected by it – because they’re not.” There are many legal gun holders that agree with Greg as this Bill does pose many more restrictions on an already extremely restrictive system. However, Goodale speaks on behalf of himself, and the Liberal party attempts to assure those opposed to the bill by stating: “We believe we have a sensible, practical package that advances public safety, assists police in trying to keep people safe, and is respectful and fair in dealing with law-abiding firearms and owners and businesses. We’re hopeful this will reflect a consensus view…”.