In the past few months, I have had a number of debates with pro-gun advocates on twitter over a gun control laws. While I enjoy debate, I felt it was taking up too much of my time and I wanted to focus on other things, so I decided to block some of the more rude twitter users and muted others, because I feel that this blog is the best platform to lay out exactly what I believe. I will preface this by stating that I am open to some compromise, within reason. Guns are primarily created to kill, therefore I believe they need to be heavily controlled, so I absolutely oppose any move that could result in looser gun laws or the normalization of gun ownership. I would love to live in a world without guns, but I realize that is totally impractical; instead, I would like to see a gun control regime that treats gun ownership as a privilege and is only permitted when there is a legitimate reason. I will discuss the changes I think need to be made based on three classifications: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited weapons. While I believe Bill C-71 is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough, and I would rather our gun laws be too strict than not strict enough.
Most firearms in Canada are non-restricted, which is what most rifles and shotguns are classified as. Since the majority of gun owners use firearms for hunting and pest control, this classification makes sense. However, I would recommend the government make the following changes:
- All semi-automatics with centre-fire that have detachable magazines should become prohibited, and over a 2 to 5 year period be confiscated with monetary compensation.
- Require one’s family doctor to sign off that the gun owner has no mental health issues, as well as ensure their family doctors are made aware if their patients have firearm licences so they can request to have them revoked if mental health issues develop.
- Gun owners should have two non-family member references and be rigorous in the follow ups on these references, as nowadays they are seldom contacted.
- Any spouse or partner they live with or have lived with in the past decade must be contacted and sign off, so as to keep firearms out of abusive homes.
- If a person is refused a firearm licence, the reason will not be given nor can it be appealed, but they can re-apply after 1 year. This will increase the likelihood of those in abusive relationships to alert authorities that their partner or ex-partner shouldn’t have a firearm, as some may be afraid to tell authorities for fear of retribution. Much the same as visitor visas, prospective gun owners will simply get a letter saying it was either approved or rejected, with no reason given.
- Require a person to state the reason they wish to own a firearm, which many other countries do, but is not the case in Canada currently. Those who do not have a legitimate reason will be denied a licence. This will help keep firearms out of the hands of paranoid types and help ensure legitimate uses. Three acceptable reasons to hold a firearms licence are as follows:
- Hunting – in this case as long as one qualifies, it will be a shall issue
- Pest Control – as long as the municipality or zone in that municipality of the property where the firearm will be stored allows for the discharge of a firearm, it will be granted, provided they meet all other qualifications. If located in an area that does not allow the discharge of a firearm, it will be refused (i.e. approved for a farmer, but refused in most urban areas).
- Target shooting – the person must be a member in good standing of a federally licenced shooting range.
All other reasons such as self defense, desire to protect from tyranny, one’s right to own one, etc. will constitute an automatic refusal.
Restricted weapons constitute most handguns and some semi-automatics. I believe all centre-fire semi-automatics with detachable magazines should be moved from the restricted category to prohibited. I support a handgun ban, but I am open to a compromise here, whereas I am not when it comes to weapons like the AR-15. Such weapons are not needed for hunting, they are not an Olympic sport, and serve no purpose other than to rapidly kill a lot of people. Even with the five magazine limit, the rivet can easily be removed. I support a ban on handguns but in understanding that some like to use them for target shooting, gun ranges would remain open, but people would have to leave their guns at the range rather than take them home. This means fewer opportunities to use them for suicide or if in a domestic dispute. The one exception would be competitive target shooters, who would need to take their guns to other competitions and would receive an exemption. Nonetheless, while a British style or Japanese-style handgun ban would be ideal, I could accept a compromise similar to what Australia, Germany and others have done. If there is a compromise, I do however think the minimum needs to be done:
- One must be a member of a gun club for at least 2 years before they can purchase a handgun
- Municipalities will have the right to ban handguns if they so wish.
- An owner of a hand gun must attend at least 12 shooting events or will forfeit their licence (this will ensure only true target shooters, not those who just want to own a gun are licenced)
- Those with RPAL licences will be limited to a maximum of 5 handguns, and anyone who wishes to purchase additional guns must get written permission from the Public Safety Minister. This will help prevent straw purchases and also reduce the stockpiling of huge arsenals which are dangerous in many circumstances, such as if the home is broken into.
Prohibited guns, as the name suggests, are forbidden. This category includes fully automatics, some semi-automatics, and some handguns. As it stands now, prohibited simply means such weapons cannot be sold (in Canada) and when the licence holder dies, the firearm is forfeited., However, the firearm is not taken out of circulation and can be transferred to another prohibited licence holder. I believe due to the dangers of these weapons, confiscation, not grandfathering, is necessary. For currently prohibited weapons, holders would have 2 years to turn them over for compensation, and any guns not turned over would be seized without compensation and the person would be arrested. Any future firearms moved to the prohibited category would give owners 2 years from the day it is moved into the category to surrender them.
Canada’s gun laws are not unfettered like in the United States, and is one of the reasons why we don’t have the same problems they do, thankfully. However, Canada’s gun laws can still be improved. I am very concerned about some gun rights groups like the CCFR, CSSA, and NFA. We cannot prevent them from existing, but it is important the government makes clear that the desire to normalize gun ownership, have looser gun laws, or bring a gun culture to Canada will not happen. As we’ve seen in the US, it is very tough to undo once it does happen.