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

VIDEO: Terry Fox Run returns to Port Hardy for the first time since 2016

All told, Port Hardy’s Terry Fox Run raised $2,200.30 with more still coming in.

2019 FEDERAL ELECTION: Meet the candidates for the North Island-Powell River riding

In an effort to inform the North Island-Powell River riding constituents, we… Continue reading

Port Hardy celebrates Pride Day at Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre

In the evening, FISH TACO: A Seaside Drag performance was held at the Quarterdeck Pub.

Federal election: Meet the North Island candidates

We begin this series on the federal election by asking about their motivation for running.

Port McNeill Lions Club on the verge of shutting down, needs members

Stewart and Hinton hope volunteers will step forward to help them through this difficult time.

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

Free Tesla 3 offered with purchase of Surrey townhome

Century Group’s offer for Viridian development runs through Oct. 31

B.C. communities urged to improve access for disabled people

One in four B.C. residents has disability, most want to work

Sikh millworker lodges human rights complaint against Interfor, again

Mander Sohal, fired from Delta’s Acorn Mill, alleges discrimination based on religion and disability

UVic students killed in Bamfield bus crash were from Winnipeg, Iowa City

Authorities said the two victims were a man and a woman, both aged 18

Safety concerns resurface after fatal bus crash on Vancouver Island

Huu-ay-aht First Nations wants a safe route between Bamfield and Port Alberni

National weather forecasters predict average fall, cold winter

The Weather Network says precipitation will about average in most parts of Canada

Two dead, two in critical condition in highway crash near Campbell River

Highway 19 reopened Sunday night after it was closed in both directions

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Most Read