Federal Liberals promised tougher gun control measures during the 2015 election campaign, and in late March, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale finally introduced long-awaited amendments to Canada’s Firearms Act.
The bill came under immediate attack from both sides of the gun debate, which continues to heat up.
Few people in Atlantic Canada are opposed to responsible gun owners hunting geese, ducks, deer, moose and small game. What they do oppose are weapons like semi-automatic rifles which have no use except to do harm to other people.
And few people are going to question common sense regulations that ensure the sales of firearms are recorded and background checks are carried out to keep them out of the hands of people who might use them to commit violent acts.
While neither side in the gun debate is happy with Goodale’s bill, the silent majority of Atlantic Canadians likely supports the modestly tougher legislation.
The bill is weighted towards enhanced background checks. It toughens rules governing the transportation of guns and tightens recordkeeping for the sale of firearms.
What is doesn’t do is restrict sales to responsible gun owners.
The gun lobby should be happy, but for some, any registrations or checks are too many — give an inch today and they’ll come for your handguns tomorrow and your rifles and shotguns next week. They see the bill as a step closer to the return of a gun registry.
That previous bureaucratic boondoggle helped cripple gun reform laws for years because of public outrage over massive costs overruns. Now, critics are using the ill-fated registry to attack the government instead of addressing the serious issue of public safety. Shame on them.
They should be reminded that in the United States — the home of the powerful National Rifle Association and the sacred Second Amendment — federal law requires that records be kept on every gun sale through federally licenced firearms dealers.
Gun control groups, meanwhile, have condemned Goodale’s legislation, saying it provides “weak measures” and “bare minimums” which fail to place public safety over the rights of gun owners. A vocal critic of the bill is a father whose son — an RCMP officer — was shot and killed by a man who later took his own life. The father says the amendments would do nothing to keep firearms out of the hands of people like the man who killed his son.
Goodale predicted the contentious issue would provoke heated rhetoric. He went for a consensus view that advances public safety, assists police and is respectful and fair in dealing with law-abiding firearm owners and businesses.
After all, the Canadian way is to compromise — for both sides to find common ground to support gun safety rules and regulations that we can all live with.
A cooling-off period is what’s needed now, so that people can ponder whether perhaps Goodale has managed to find a balance between ensuring the safety of Canadians and protecting responsible gun owners’ rights.
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