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New gun law in wake of Montreal Massacre

The Story

A new gun law that would have made it illegal for Marc Lepine to own the 30-bullet magazine he used in his massacre of 14 women takes effect on this Saturday in 1992. After the massacre at a Montreal university, students petitioned the government for more rigid gun control laws. To acquire a gun under the new law and at the time, Lepine would have had to prove he was older than 16 and had no criminal record and he would have had to check a box on the Firearms Acquisition Certificate indicating he was not mentally ill. Though penalties for possession are more severe with the new law, the gun Lepine used is not on the banned list. For this reason an NDP justice critic thinks the law is not strict enough.

Medium: Radio
Program: Canada at Five
Broadcast Date: July 27, 1992
Host: Barbara Smith
Duration: 1:23

Did You know?

• Heidi Rathjen, a fourth-year engineering student at the time of the massacre, started the École Polytechnique petition in December 1989. It demanded stricter laws preventing possession of military and paramilitary weapons. In a matter of months Rathjen had collected 500,000 signatures.

• In 1978 Parliament passed legislation requiring a Firearms Acquisition Certificate be filled out before purchasing a rifle. Politicians who thought more could be done heatedly debated the legislation. In the end, NDP leader Tommy Douglas said, "Half a loaf is better than none ... I believe that someday we will have the techniques to register all guns."

• No Quebec member of Parliament opposed Bill C-17 when it passed in the House of Commons. However, five provinces and Canada's three territories did not concur, opposing the act before the courts. Much of the opposition came from hunters and farmers who used rifles. They couldn't understand why the bill didn't target handguns but went after rifles, which were used in less than seven per cent of violent crime involving firearms. In 1999, handguns were used in 75 per cent of gun violence.

• At the time of the massacre Canadians owned 16 million unregistered rifles and shotguns, and 1,400 people a year died from gun injuries. Since Parliament passed Bill C-17 (1991) and Bill C-68 (1995), Canada has had the lowest rate of gun deaths in 30 years.


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