Canadians divided on banning handguns, assault-style firearms: consultation

Participants felt strongly that a ban would target law-abiding owners, rather than illicit firearms

Physicians and health workers protesting in Toronto, walk past a volunteer from the anti-gun group “Silence the Violence and Shun the Guns,” on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. A newly released summary of federal consultations says Canadians have wildly diverging views on banning handguns and assault-style firearms. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Canadians have wildly diverging views on banning handguns and assault-style firearms, says a newly released summary of federal consultations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair to study the possibility of such a ban shortly after a shooting spree in Toronto last July.

The federal report released Thursday says opinions expressed during in-person discussions and through written submissions both opposed and supported outlawing handguns and assault-style firearms. In contrast, most people who responded to a questionnaire were against a ban.

READ MORE: B.C. gets $5.3 million to work against gangs and guns

Many participants felt strongly that a ban would target law-abiding owners, rather than illicit firearms, and would not reduce gang violence, the report says. As a result, many called for beefing up police and border services, as well as tougher penalties for firearms-trafficking and gun-related crime.

“A wide range of approaches and ideas were discussed, which suggests that a multifaceted approach is needed to address this issue rather than implementing a ban in isolation,” the report says.

There was consensus on the need to address the underlying social conditions that can lead to gun violence, such as poverty, lack of education and employment opportunities, poor mental-health supports and social isolation, the report adds.

Participants also supported better collection and sharing of data on gun crime, especially on sources of illicit firearms and the types of offences being committed.

In addition, many people active in the firearms community said they wanted to work with the federal government to come up with solutions.

New Zealand recently banned military-style semi-automatic weapons after 50 Muslims were brutally gunned down in Christchurch.

Blair said Thursday there are “opportunities to take measures that will make Canada safer,” though he declined to provide details or speculate on timing.

Blair said he has been looking at the data, the experience in other jurisdictions, Canada’s regulatory environment and how firearms get into the wrong hands. “And as a result of that work, I believe that there are some things that we can do to create a safe environment, reduce gun violence in our communities and make it far more difficult for people who would commit crimes.”

Participants at a series of eight in-person roundtables in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Moncton, N.B., last October “were divided in their views on a ban,” the summary says.

There was also a range of opinion among 36 written submissions. Opposition to a ban came from shooting clubs, retailers, academics, wildlife associations, a territorial government, an association representing rural municipalities and a group of LGBTQ firearms owners.

“You are reacting to a crime wave, no question, but not a firearms problem,” said one submission.

Support for a ban came from some health associations, victims’ organizations, women-focused groups, a provincial ministry and an organization that deals with municipal affairs.

“As these firearms have no legitimate use in hunting, current owners may only legally use them for target shooting or collecting,” said one such submission. “This is not a compelling enough reason to justify the risk they pose to public safety.”

However, about four in every five of the almost 135,000 responses to an online questionnaire objected to doing more to limit access to handguns or assault-style weapons.

A federal bill introduced in March last year, and currently before the Senate, has proposed expanding the scope of background checks on those who want to acquire guns, strengthening record-keeping requirements for sales and requiring purchasers to present valid firearms licences.

But the government has long been eyeing additional measures.

The government thinking evolved further after a July 2018 shooting in Toronto that killed two people, injured 13, led to the gunman’s death and left a neighbourhood deeply shaken.

Two days later, Toronto city council passed a motion calling on the federal government to outlaw the sale of handguns in the city.

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Second dump site of Dungeness crab discovered

DFO confident new site related to April 2 dump of 250 more crab

Haida youth travels to New York for UN forum on Indigenous issues

Haana Edensaw presented her speech in Xaad Kil, Masset dialect of the Haida language

Nisga’a leader named UNBC chancellor

Dr. Joseph Arthur Gosnell is the first Indigenous leader to assume the role

On The Wing: Hazy seas and dead Krill

Large die-off of krill in Delkatla Bay

QC food bank needs cash

Feed the People program shuts down for month of May

VIDEO: Killer whales hunt for seals in Vancouver harbour

Bigg’s killer whales feed on marine mammals like seals, sea lions, dolphins and even other whales

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Amber alert issued for 5-year-old Ontario boy

Ethan Montes is believed to be in the company of his mother, 47-year-old Juliet Mohammed

Blaine, Wash. inn owner, charged with smuggling people into B.C., granted bail

Robert Joseph Boule ordered to turn away anyone indicating a plan to enter Canada illegally

RCMP arrest B.C. man following threatening Vaisakhi Facebook post

Post made reference to pressure cooker bomb at massive Surrey parade

Northern B.C. high school student reaches 100,000 followers on YouTube

Voice actor, animator, Jericho Fortune has more than 30-million views on his channel GTAGAMER222

University mourns student who died in B.C. canoeing accident

Andrew Milner, 19, was in his second year with the University of Calgary’s basketball program

B.C. woman pleads for people to stop stealing daffodils meant to honour cancer victims

Cynthia Bentley honours memory of those lost to cancer by planting 100 daffodils each year

Most Read