In late March, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced new legislation to clamp down on law-abiding citizens who use firearms at work, on their farms, to feed their families, to compete at the Olympics and for recreational shooting. These new measures severely limit personal freedoms and will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Not a single, solitary soul will be safer as a result.
Why now? Well, because Trudeau wanted to distract your attention from his tickle trunk full of culturally inappropriate dress-up costumes and the fact he and a number of his ministers like to hang out with convicted terrorists. That is, when they’re not accusing key allies of criminal mischief to malign their government.
Seizing the moment to change the channel away from his India debacle, Trudeau told reporters his new gun law would “do a better job of keeping people safe.” Except, in reality, not.
What will Trudeau’s new law do? Five main things:
- Gun sellers will be required to keep records of firearms inventory & sales for 20 years.
- First of all, most stores keep these records anyway. So, why not make it a law? Well, stores keep these records for inventory purposes – not for police inspection. Requiring anybody to keep records for 20 years is onerous and expensive. Canada’s tax man only requires businesses to keep financial records for six years.
- Are police going to use these records to solve crimes? How practical is that, really? What use are paper records – or even an electronic spreadsheet with sales information – in every store? Are police really going to visit every store in Canada to check sales records – individually – for the serial numbers of weapons recovered from crime scenes? The only way this is a practical solution is if those records are aggregated – centralized even – into a giant registry of some sort. Exactly like the one the government wasted billions of dollars on in the past. The one that was shut down because it didn’t do anything except cost money. This new law, Bill C-71, is Long-Gun Registry 2.0 – another billion-dollar boondoggle in the making.
- Most guns used in crimes are handguns. Handguns are already – and have always been – centrally registered. And yet, they’re still used in crimes. Go figure. Criminals don’t register their guns.
- The one thing a mandatory long-term record of gun sales will do is create a handy shopping list for any thief who wants to find guns in local homes. With a list stolen from a local gun shop, thieves can zero right in on homes that have the make and model of gun they prefer. This law makes home invasions and burglaries much more efficient.
- Purchasers of rifles and shotguns will be required to present a valid licence.
- This is already the case at any gun retailer in Canada. No one can purchase a firearm of any kind in Canada without a valid Possession and Acquisition Licence.
- In fact, I went to a firearms retailer in Toronto the other day and asked to see a handgun. They were not on display – but, rather kept out of sight in a vault. Before the dealer would even fetch one for me to look at, he insisted on inspecting my gun licence. No licence. No gun. Not even to see it.
- If the law is at all unclear about whether a gun seller needs to see your PAL, then clarifying it would make sense. But, I don’t know that this is unclear.
- Background checks for gun licence applicants will expand from examining the five years immediately preceding a licence application, to cover a person’s entire lifetime.
- A Top Secret Security Clearance – required to access the most sensitive national security information – only goes back 20 years. It routinely costs thousands of dollars to perform and takes weeks or months. Doing a lifetime background check for every law-abiding licensed gun owner will require hundreds of staff and cost millions of dollars – and take months or years to do.
- This is either a make-work program for the RCMP, CSIS and unionized government employees who should be focused on reducing gang violence – or, it’s a blatant attempt to make guns all-but impossible to access for law-abiding citizens.
- This provision only affects law-abiding gun owners. Criminals will not be discouraged or delayed because criminals don’t apply for permits.
- The number of gun crimes involving legally-owned guns used by licensed gun-owners is next to zero. The vast majority of guns used in crime, according to police, are illegal – either smuggled illegally into Canada for criminal use (over 50%) or stolen. In neither case, would a life-long background check of a lawful gun-owner have made a difference.
- Gun owners will be required to apply for and receive a permit to transport restricted firearms every time they move them from one place to another, except when taking them to a shooting range or home from a store.
- Again, this only affects law-abiding gun owners. Criminals don’t apply for licences or transportation permits.
- It will require a massive increase in staffing at huge taxpayer expense. It is, at best, nothing more than a large-scale make-work program for unionized government employees.
- How does a piece of paper make anyone safer?
- The RCMP will, again, be the agency that decides what is and is not a “restricted” or “prohibited” firearm.
- The classification of firearms in Canada is entirely arbitrary and often nonsensical. Some firearms are unrestricted and require only a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) to obtain and use – others are “Restricted” and require additional training and a special “Restricted PAL.” Still other firearms are, often mysteriously, classified as “Prohibited” and, essentially, banned from lawful civilian use for any purpose. For example, it is illegal to own any firearm chambered for .32 calibre ammunition, but guns firing much larger and more lethal ammunition are just fine. Why? Because.
- Currently, the classification of a weapon must be approved by the Minister – who, as an elected official, can be held accountable for her/his decisions by voters. The new law transfers this authority to the RCMP who can do what they used to do the last time they had this power – basically, make things up as/when it pleases them. What is legal today, may be banned tomorrow. Illegal if black, legal if blue. No need to explain, because they are entirely unaccountable. Doubt this? Just ask the Attorney General or Prime Minister if they can tell the RCMP what to do. They cannot. That’s the beauty of an “independent” police service.
If not this – what should government do to make Canadians safer?
According to Statistics Canada, the majority of firearms murders in Canada are gang-related. Immediately following the Danzig St. shootings in Toronto in 2013, I arranged a meeting between the Mayor of Toronto and the Prime Minister to discuss possible measures to prevent future tragedies. While in the Toronto Police Division hosting the meeting, I noticed a large poster on the wall with hundreds of photographs on it, arranged like a “rogues gallery.” When I asked what it was, I was told it was a listing of every gang member in Scarborough. There were, the police said, about 400 active gang members in Toronto and police know who they are. They have their names. They have their pictures.
Most violent crime in Toronto – indeed, in all of Canada – is gang-related. The majority of gun crime is gang-related. It is a criminal offence to belong to or assist a criminal gang.
If the government really wants to reduce gun crime in Canada – if Justin Trudeau really wants to reduce the number of people murdered and maimed by the criminal use of firearms in Canada – his government should vastly increase the resources dedicated to fighting criminal gangs and organized crime. That means more police, more prosecutors, more judges and more courtrooms are required. They should establish separate courts and crown counsel offices who do nothing but prosecute gang-related crimes.
Eliminate the gangs. Eliminate the crimes.
That would keep Canadians safer. Trudeau’s crackdown on law-abiding farmers, hunters, Olympians and sport shooters will not.
A version of this column was first published on towhey.com
Mark Towhey is a trusted advisor to business and political leaders, host of #TheBestShowEver on NEWSTALK1010 Sundays in Toronto, author of “Mayor Rob Ford: Uncontrollable” and a dynamic keynote speaker. Twitter: @towhey FaceBook: Mark Towhey