Liberal minister says police chiefs support gun ban

Liberal MP and Safety Minister Bill Blair claims police chiefs across Canada calling for handgun ban, but Canadian Cheifs of Police Association said contrary back in August.

Correction (Dec. 12): The original version of this story incorrectly asserted that Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair was speaking about the Liberals’ proposed handgun ban in Parliament last week. The minister’s office did not respond to requests for comment before the story was published, but reached out to a former Post Millennial editor’s inactive email account to ask for a correction. As soon as The Post Millennial was reached on Monday the correction was issued. We regret the error.

The Liberal government continues its push for bans on guns⁠—but they aren’t very clear on what exactly that means.

Many are perplexed by the proposed ban on certain gun models.

Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair said they support a ban on “military-style assault weapons” Tuesday in the House of Commons, saying, “For more than four decades police chiefs have been calling for the banning of those weapons.”

“Minister Blair would do well to listen to the experts on this and refocus on combating crime.” said Tracey Wilson, VP of Public Relations for the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, a registered federal lobbyist group.

Asked at a Senate Committee last April how Bill C-71 could be improved,  Chief Palmer’s reply included “more restrictions on certain specialized military weapons like certain rifles.”

When the Liberal government announced its proposed ban of some semi-automatic guns, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police expressed support: “Ontario’s police leaders support a prohibition on all military-designed assault rifles. In our view, these weapons have no place in our communities and should be reserved for use by Canada’s military and law enforcement.”

Blair’s spokesperson also provided The Post Millennial with several references of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) as far back as 1977 calling for a ban of assault rifles.

In regards to the Liberals’ proposed handgun ban, the annual meeting of Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police didn’t see its efficacy in August, as reported by CBC. The consensus was given in an interview with the CBC by Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer, who stated that in the majority of cases involving gun violence, the gun in question was already illegal in the first place.

“People can’t be naive to the realities of how it works with organized crime and smuggling,” said Police Chief Palmer. “There will always be an influx of guns from the United States to Canada. Heroin is illegal in Canada too, but we have heroin in Canada.”

“In every single case there are already offences for that,” Palmer said in Calgary, following the meeting. Palmer is the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

“They’re already breaking the law and the criminal law in Canada addresses all those circumstances,” said Palmer. “The firearms laws in Canada are actually very good right now. They’re very strict.”

The handgun ban the Liberals are proposing wouldn’t be at the federal level due to the high expense of a buyback program as there are already 900,000 guns legally owned in Canada. This strategy would also only target law-abiding handgun owners. Instead, the Liberal plan would leave it to the individual municipalities to regulate the parameters that best work for them.

This poses a number of questions around how such laws would be implemented, according to professor and constitutional scholar at the University of Ottawa Carissima Mathen when speaking to the CBC earlier this year. The ban would come with the risk of punishment, which would fall under criminal law, and that is federal jurisdiction, whereas municipalities look to provincial law for guidance. The ban would therefore require all three levels of government to cooperate, according to Mathen.

Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford said that his party rejects the idea of a handgun ban in Toronto, saying it would unfairly punish legal firearms owners, when the majority of gun crimes are committed with illegal firearms, many smuggled in from the US.

Chief of Police for Toronto Mark Saunders seemed to support Ford as well in a recent interview with CBC Radio estimating that 80 percent of illegal guns seized on the city’s streets can be traced to sources in the US.

In a previous interview in the summer of 2018, Blair told the CBC host that gun bans do not work, citing his experience as the former Toronto Police chief. Since becoming the minister of public safety he’s reversed his position.