Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an Order-in-Council (OIC) on May 1, 2020, intending to ban 1,500 models and variants of what he called "assault-style weapons." But gun control legislation, according to the Ontario Director to Canada’s National Firearms Association, Jordan Vandenhoff, only affects those who already abide by existing laws.
At the press conference, Trudeau said that "these weapons were designed for one purpose, and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people, in the shortest amount of time. There is no use and no place for such weapons in Canada," a line that misattributed the problem with violent gun crime to law-abiding firearms owners.
Vandenhoff said this was "downright insulting."
"They are wrongly assigning blame to law-abiding firearms owners and continue to fail to address who is actually responsible for the problem. They are pointing their fingers directly at law-abiding gun owners rather than those who commit violent offences, like gangs, across Canada," he said.
"The federal government is entirely missing the target because by going after law-abiding citizens, they intentionally misrepresent how we act. They make false statements such as we're getting assault weapons off the street."
The ban would restrict Canadians from buying, selling, transporting, or using 1,500 models and variants of firearms. This, in effect, criminalizes anything and holds law-abiding firearms owners liable for not submitting those firearms to the police.
Some of the guns listed in the ban were leaked to Radio-Canada two days before the announcement. The list includes the popular AR-15 rifle, and the Ruger Mini-14 used to kill 14 women at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique in 1989.
"For many families, including many Indigenous people, firearms are part of traditions passed down through generations," said Trudeau, who later admitted that "most firearm owners in Canada use them safely and responsibly."
But then, he said, "you don’t need an AR-15 to bring down a deer."
The ban was implemented shortly after the Nova Scotia tragedy, where Trudeau announced new firearms restrictions would be coming.
"There will be an exception for Indigenous people exercising a section 35 hunting right, as well as those who use the weapon for hunting to feed themselves or their family," said Justice Minister David Lametti.
"They may continue using firearms that were previously non-restricted for these purposes until a suitable replacement can be acquired."
The OIC allowed the prime minister to pass legislation that only required approval from the Queen's Privy Council (QPC) and the Governor General's signature. It also allowed him to avoid debate and a formal vote in parliament over the firearms ban.
With the Trudeau Liberals in power, the President of the QPC and Liberal MP Dominic Leblanc approved the policy prematurely despite first requiring the QPC's "advice and consent" on the OIC.
"The federal government has already shown that they have no respect for our democracy," said Vandenhoff, who expressed grave concern that the Trudeau Liberals bypassed and blocked debate and consultation on the polarizing issue.
By rubber-stamping the OIC, the Trudeau Liberals no longer needed to engage petition e-2341, which called for a formal debate in parliament on proposed gun control measures. The petition amassed 175,310 signatures between December 17, 2019, to February 15, 2020, becoming the most successful formal petition to reach Parliament.
Initiated by firearms owner Brad Manysiak of Medicine Hat, Alberta, he said the Trudeau Liberals pushed the OIC through parliament not fully functional before petition-e2341 could be tabled in the House of Commons.
Manysiak said this showed how little they feel about the democratic process.
"They have no respect for it. It’s an opportunistic and dictatorial move that borders on tyranny."
Vandenhoff added: "They go ahead and do it. It's the same with the other gun legislation they did. They just passed it through as fast as they could with very little debate."
He called the OIC "very troubling."
On the NFA’s website, they wrote that the May 1, 2020 "military-type assault rifle ban" was "a convenient way for the Government of Canada to deflect attention from its failures that had made such [a] tragedy possible."
"As the inquiry has shown, Gabriel Wortman acquired his firearms in the US and brought them to Canada illegally. He did not take advantage of any loophole in Canadian gun control legislation. Instead, he was the beneficiary of poor execution by law enforcement," it reads.
They added that Wortman had a history of violence and had been the subject of several prior complaints or notifications to police.
The centerpiece of Canadian gun control legislation is s.91 of the Criminal Code, which makes it illegal to possess any firearm unless one holds a license of the appropriate class, and in the case of restricted and prohibited firearms, a registration certificate.
Chief firearms officers issue licenses to those deemed not to represent a risk for public safety (s.5 of the Firearms Act) for five years and are renewable. They can be revoked at any time, for any good and sufficient reason (s.68 of the Firearms Act). Any person with a violent criminal history, criminal background, or connections to a criminal organization is thus ineligible to hold a firearms license.
Possession and storage of handguns are already highly regulated. Their possession and usage are restricted to approved ranges. They cannot be carried, except for professional purposes and only by those specifically authorized (s.20 of the Firearms Act).
"Despite those existing restrictions, the overwhelming majority of so-called gun crime is committed by individuals who procure, possess and use firearms illegally," said Vandenhoff. "Those individuals can illegally procure firearms, not because the existing laws are not strict enough, but because there exists an illegal underground market for firearms that have either been stolen, lost — most often by police forces themselves — or imported illegally into Canada."
"By definition, criminals are not expected to obey the law," reads the NFA website. "Legislation cannot reduce crime."
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