Sudbury

Northern Ontario gun owners fear 'intentionally vague' Liberal plan will lead to wider gun ban

A Liberal proposal to ban "military-style" rifles is re-igniting the gun control debate in northern Ontario. Some fear this is just the start of a crackdown on legal gun owners. 

Liberals, Greens and NDP all pushing for greater restrictions on 'military-style' weapons

A young woman takes aim at a target during a woman's charity event at the Crean Hill Gun Club in the western reaches of Greater Sudbury. (Erik White/CBC )

The Crean Hill Gun Club is one of the only places in Greater Sudbury where you can legally shoot a handgun or a restricted rifle.

Club president Steve Hogan says a proposed Liberal ban on "military-style" firearms will do nothing to stop gun violence in major Canadian cities, and only hurt sport shooters like him and his some 200 members.

"We feel very much as though we're being punished for somebody else's sins," he says.

Steve Hogan is the president of the Crean Hill Gun Club. (Erik White/CBC )

"Because they know where we live, they know what guns we have because we're forced to register everything and it's easy for them to take them; whereas taking guns from the criminals who are shooting one another and innocent people is hard work."

Hogan worries the lack of specifics in the Liberal proposal could see even hunting rifles made illegal one day.

"It's written intentionally vague so it can mean whatever you want it to mean," he says. 

Nickel Belt incumbent Marc Serre says a re-elected Liberal government would ask the RCMP to classify certain firearms as "military-style" that would then be banned. (Erik White/CBC )

Nickel Belt Liberal candidate and incumbent MP Marc Serre says the plan is to consult the RCMP on which weapons should be banned and then the government would buy them from gun owners.

He says for him the focus is on protecting hunters, not those who want to own a gun designed for military use.

"That's not a hunting rifle. These are machines that have been fabricated, manufactured to kill people," Serre says.

The Liberals are also promising to give police and border guards more money to fight the flow of illegal guns from the U.S.

Serre says he made sure before the party moved forward with this proposal that it wouldn't affect hunters in northern Ontario.

When his uncle Benoit Serre was the local MP in the 1990s, he broke party ranks and voted against his own Liberal government plans for a long gun registry.

That same registry was a thorny issue for NDP MPs in the northeast in 2011, who initially voted with the Conservative government to scrap it, but most were eventually whipped into voting to keep it. 

This time, the NDP are making a similar promise as the Liberals to "keep assault weapons and illegal handguns off our streets and to tackle gun smuggling and organized crime." However, the party does not lay out how that would be done.

The Green Party says it too would buy back assault weapons from Canadians who currently own them legally, but it would also look to buy back handguns as well.

The Conservatives are making a similar pledge, also saying they'll toughen the penalties for those convicted of gun crimes. 

Handguns and restricted rifles are only permitted to be fired at regulated ranges and gun clubs. (Erik White/CBC )

Sudbury psychologist Lorraine Champagne would like to hear the parties talk more about mental health services when it comes to gun crime.

She was one of several dozen women who fired a gun for the first time at a charity shooting event for women at the Crean Hill Gun Club earlier this month.

Champagne says there really is no "mental health system" in Canada, with most counselling services not funded by the provincial government.

"Rather than just looking at the gun, we need to look at the mental health services people need." 

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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