Student petition aims to ban semi-automatic weapon ownership
'Get those out of the hands of everyday people'
A group of students from Charlottetown's Colonel Gray High School is circulating a petition to have the federal government ban "military-style" semi-automatic weapons from private ownership.
The students were inspired by the example of New Zealand, where those kinds of weapons were banned within days of a mass shooting in Christchurch in March.
Their teacher suggested the petition as a school project.
"We don't believe that anybody other than military or a proper authority should be handling them," said student Shaeya Thibodeau.
"Because they're so dangerous and because they can do such harm rather quickly, we thought why don't we get those out of the hands of everyday people and avoid a possible risk in the future."
The students created a petition on a website created by the Government of Canada specifically for citizen petitions. It has gathered more than 600 signatures, including people in every province.
Bill Blair, the federal minister of border security and organized crime reduction, was on P.E.I. this week.
"I think it's great that, that young people are taking an active interest in safety in their communities," said Blair about the petition.
The federal government is actively looking at gun control laws, he said, but he went on to say the government is not in a position to move quickly the way New Zealand did.
"There was an overwhelming consensus in that country about prohibiting those firearms in New Zealand. We have not been able to acquire that consensus across Canada," said Blair.
"It's a very polarized issue and there's a great diversity of perspectives on this."
Blair said it is unlikely there will be time for any legislative changes before the fall election, but he said some changes to regulations are possible. In particular, he is looking at storage requirements, with an eye toward better protecting weapons from theft.
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With files from Island Morning