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Trudeau government targets law-abiding gunowners, again

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Trudeau government targets law-abiding gunowners, again

This week, in a move that stunned gunowners across Canada, the Trudeau government unveiled several new amendments to Bill C-21, first introduced earlier this year, which if passed in the House of Commons will represent the largest gun ban in Canadian history.

The proposed amendments prohibit all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns “capable of discharging centre-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner and that is designed to accept a detachable cartridge magazine with a capacity greater than five cartridges”—in other words, most firearms used by hunters in Canada. If the amendments become law, millions of Canadians will instantly possess illegal firearms, which—if not handed over to government officials—will be confiscated.

The government has made this move, which will do basically nothing to address gun crime, during a wave of gun violence. So far this year, there have been 351 shootings in Toronto alone, with 41 people killed. According to the Toronto Police Service, most guns used in violent crime in Toronto—mainly certain types of handguns prohibited in Canada—are smuggled into the country.

Of course, this latest attempted gun ban is part of larger trend. In a few short years, the Trudeau government has mandated the confiscation of more than one million firearms, with a total value of more than $4.0 billion, all owned by law-abiding Canadians. These confiscations are based entirely on vague claims about potential threats to public safety, will do basically nothing to make Canadians safer, and target guns not criminals.

First, in 2020 the government issued an “Order-in-Council”—basically a decision by the prime minister and his cabinet, without parliamentary debate—to ban all so-called “assault-style” firearms. In reality, these firearms are simply military-looking semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, which have been popular for more than 100 years. But they are now prohibited and must be surrendered to the government before the amnesty expires in October 2023. It’s unclear how many firearms the ban covers—estimates vary from 150,000 to more than 500,000, with a value estimated at around $2.0 billion. This estimate includes almost $1.0 billion in inventory losses that retailers will suffer due to stock that can’t be sold or returned to suppliers.

Then in 2022, the Trudeau government (again, via an Order-in-Council) announced a “national freeze” on handgun sales, effectively rendering approximately one million legal firearms (valued at more than $1.0 billion) worthless. The freeze prohibits the legal sale or inheritance of almost all handguns and requires them to be surrendered without compensation when the owner passes away. The government’s decision, if maintained, will eventually eliminate target sports and put many fish-and-game clubs under severe financial pressure because they rely on target sports for much of their income. The government will allow special permits for a small number of Olympic competitors, security guards, and wilderness activities such as trapping.

Taken together, with two strokes of the pen, the Trudeau government has sought to confiscate more than $3.0 billion of private property from law-abiding Canadians while simultaneously likely bankrupting hundreds of small businesses and about one-third of Canada’s firearm industry. And if this week’s amendments to Bill C-21 become law, these numbers will surely rise.

So why is the Trudeau government doing this? Will this crackdown on law-abiding gunowners make Canadians more safe?

Simply put, no. Peer-reviewed research shows that previous legislation prohibiting the possession and acquisition of certain firearms made no discernable impact on the rates of homicide, spousal homicide or suicide in Canada or other countries. Bans of short-barrelled handguns, semi-automatic or military-looking firearms have also had no demonstrable beneficial effect on homicide rates.

Moreover, according to testimony by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and other police representatives at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU), both the freeze on handgun sales and buy-back of so-called assault firearms are misdirected and this money would be better spent tackling illegal guns in the hands of criminals rather than collecting hundreds of thousands of lawfully-owned firearms. Again, most guns used in violent crime in Toronto are smuggled. Border guards testified that due to gaping holes in Canada’s border security, guns could easily slip through unless new technology and new funding were provided. Available statistics strongly support these testimonies.

Some claim that the availability of firearms poses a risk to women. However, Statistics Canada studies repeatedly find that firearms are rarely involved in domestic violence cases (less than 1 per cent) even though at least one-quarter of all households in Canada have firearms. Offenders who do commit spousal violence are prohibited from owning firearms. To ensure that applicants for a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL)—a prerequisite to gun ownership in Canada—are not spousal abusers, the applicant’s spouse or partner must co-sign the application and may be contacted by the RCMP.

Indeed, there are more than two million PAL holders in Canada; each one has been vetted by the RCMP and is checked nightly for any violation through the “continuous eligibility screening” program. Firearm owners are also exceptionally law-abiding. PAL holders are less likely to commit murder than other Canadians. Between 2000 and 2020, the number of PAL holders accused of homicide varied from 6 to 21, averaging 12 accused per year out of approximately 2 million PAL holders. The number of PAL holders increased from 1,979,054 to 2,206,755 over this same time period, so the annual rate over 20 years was 0.63 accused per 100,000 PAL holders.

Because Statistics Canada only asks about firearm licence status in homicides involving firearms, it’s impossible to know how many PAL holders were accused of murder when firearms were not involved. But the firearms homicide rate for adult Canadians is 0.72 per 100,000—that’s 14 per cent higher than the PAL holder homicide rate of 0.63 per 100,000. And the firearms homicide rate for accused Canadian males is 1.29 per 100,000, about twice as high the rate for PAL holders, 90 per cent of whom are male.

Millions of Canadians own firearms and use them for socially beneficial purposes including hunting, protecting lives, property or target shooting. Hunting and firearm businesses alone contribute more than $5.0 billion to Canada’s economy and support more than 45,000 jobs. Hunters are the largest contributors to conservation efforts, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to secure conservation lands and fund projects to manage wildlife.

The Trudeau government believes attacking “guns” will win votes and put the Opposition parties on their back feet. Public opinion polls show that “gun control” is popular among voters in large urban centres, with the strongest support found among voters who know the least about firearms or gun laws. Focusing on guns rather than violent criminals lets Ottawa pose as a protector of public safety while doing very little about actual gun crime.

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