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Canada's Public Safety Minister Vic Toews removed three gun enthusiasts from a national firearms advisory committee and replaced them with police leaders. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The government has shaken up a committee that advises the public safety minister on firearms legislation in Canada, dumping three gun enthusiasts in favour of a trio of police leaders.

The Harper government had faced sharp criticism from gun control groups for allowing firearms experts and dealers on its Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee (CFAC).

On Monday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews issued a news release stating Linda Baggaley, a firearms expert and dealer from Alberta, Gerry Gamble, of The Sporting Clubs of Niagara, and Kerry Higgins, a Saskatoon gunsmith, would be leaving the committee. Toews thanked all three for their service.

In their place, Toews has appointed the following to the committee: Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson, Winnipeg Police Association president Mike Sutherland, and Chief Const. Bob Rich from the Abbotsford, B.C., police force.

"I know that these individuals will be able to provide important suggestions and input," Toews said in the release.

Gun control activists have repeatedly criticized the government for loading the CFAC with gun enthusiasts instead of police officers, victims of gun violence or people working to prevent suicide.

That criticism grew louder in December when the media published a list of recommendations from the CFAC that included further loosening restrictions on guns, including a reclassification of some assault weapons and other "prohibited" firearms.

The CFAC also called for the government to extend the duration of firearm licences from five to 10 years.

In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated the government had no plans to reclassify handguns and assault weapons now designated as prohibited. 

When pressed by interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae about the need for wider representation on the committee, Harper did not rule out the idea.

"I’m obviously very concerned with some of the recommendations made in that [CFAC] report, and I think the committee does need some re-examination in that light."