Concerns emerge over 'misleading' Canadian handgun import ban
Ottawa's plan to stop handgun imports into Canada has some gun owners and experts in Alberta calling it an overreach that could have unintended consequences.
Effective Aug. 19, the Canadian government will ban the importation of restricted handguns into the country. The ban is being pushed ahead without Parliament's approval and will instead use regulatory restrictions to make the policy change.
The measure is expected to prevent "nearly all" individuals and businesses from importing handguns into Canada, the government said Friday.
"This ban is a stopgap while the handgun freeze in its entirety moves through the parliamentary process, preventing shelves from being restocked in the immediate term," said Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly.
When CTV News Edmonton asked what Dianne Harnois, owner of gun store P & D Enterprises, thought about the measure, she said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had "gone way too far."
"No matter what way he has to get it through, he is pushing it," Harnois said. "And in my personal opinion, I would tell him it is time to step down."
Doug King, Mount Royal University criminologist, says while the handgun ban may increase firearm interdictions at the border, the overall impact may not reduce gun violence on the street.
"Most firearms used in the commission of criminal events are firearms that are not owned through the proper process in Canada; they've likely been smuggled in," King told CTV News Edmonton. "You want to tackle gun violence in Canada, tackle that issue. That's where you'll get the biggest return for your investment."
King believes the government should have increased the funding to law enforcement agencies like the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency to help recruit more officers, conduct more commercial vehicle searches, and increase the investigative and intelligence-sharing capacities of officers.
"The challenge of all this is that criminal elements are one step ahead of law enforcement, and it seems to me that public policy is always one step behind law enforcement, which is one step behind the criminal element," King added.
Another aspect that the regulator change does not consider is the ability for 3D printing of firearms, King says.
"We have to start getting our minds wrapped around the notion that I could download right now off the Internet a program to (3D) print off a firearm," he said. "They are making firearms. You and I could get ahold of that program, I think, within 30 minutes (of online searching)."
In late May, the Liberals presented Bill C-21, legislation which, if passed, would further restrict legal access to handguns. It includes a section stopping short of an outright ownership ban, instead opting for a national "freeze" on the sale or transfer of handguns in Canada that allows current owners to maintain ownership of theirs.
The proposed bill also seeks to flag to create systems that flag individuals that may pose a risk to themselves or others, and hike the maximum penalties for offences involving firearms, including smuggling and trafficking.
- What is Bill C-21? A look at the proposed firearm legislation and its implications
- National handgun freeze key feature of new firearm-control bill
On Friday, Joly said the government decided to announce an import ban because since Bill C-21 was introduced, there was an "uptick" in gun purchases — handguns in particular.
"We want to prevent that. That is why we're announcing this import ban… We know that the vast majority of handguns in the country are imported, as there's no handgun producer in the country," Joly said.
On Saturday, shelves normally containing handguns at the Edmonton store were nearly empty.
"I've been waiting for the approval to come in, which just came in the last few days," said Pat Cowman, a gun owner.
He requested his license approval last spring and was able to receive his handgun today before the store sells out.
"People are now rushing to buy a handgun," Harnois added. "Those who have a licence and can legally own one. But the long-term effects are much more severe."
The legislation remains in the early stages of moving through Parliament, with MPs set to initiate a committee study of the bill once the fall sitting of the House of Commons begins in late September.
For King, that "uptick" in gun purchases should've been anticipated — especially with how much further the bill has to go to receive Royal Assent and become law.
"I think they ended up on Friday saying, 'Whoa, this thing could be delayed a whole heck of a lot longer than simply October," King said.
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"The idea though, that banning the legitimate legal sale and transfer of handguns between law-abiding citizens of Canada and to suggest that's going to have a significant impact on gun-related violence in Canada is misleading, to say the least," he added.
King said studies have shown that those who go through the process of receiving a firearm licence in Canada, including background checks, are less likely to commit a criminal offence than someone who has not.
"There's a bit of an assumption that goes: everyone who owns a firearm is somehow closer to committing a Criminal Code offence than people who aren't," he added. "That's not true. It ultimately rests with the importation, smuggling in of illegal firearms into Canada."
With files from CTV News.ca's Rachel Aiello and CTV News Edmonton's Steven Dyer
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