Politics

Andrew Scheer pushes lifetime firearms ban for criminals, calls Liberal policies 'lazy'

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer unveiled a series of firearms policies Tuesday aimed at curbing gun violence - while slamming the Liberal government's plan to study a national hand gun ban as a lazy effort that will punish lawful gun owners.

A Conservative government would impose lifetime bans for violent criminals, convicted gang members

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is promising a lifetime ban on firearm ownership for convicted gang members. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer unveiled a series of firearms policies Tuesday meant to curb gun violence — and slammed the Liberal government's plan to study a national handgun ban as a "lazy" effort that could punish lawful gun owners.

While the Conservative caucus has attacked the tighter firearms inventory controls in Bill C-71 — legislation introduced by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale — as a revival of the much-maligned long-gun registry, Scheer himself has now proposed a series of measures to restrict firearms ownership.

Speaking to reporters in Vancouver, Scheer said a Conservative government would institute a lifetime firearms ownership ban for anyone convicted of violent crime or gang-related activity.

The Saskatchewan MP said gun laws need to target criminals, not law-abiding gun owners.

"Individuals who have demonstrated serious violent behaviour or have been involved in gang activity have forfeited the right to ever be trusted to own a firearm," Scheer said, promising a mandatory ban "for all serious personal injury offences and gang crimes."

"More than half of gun murders are tied to gangs ... but Justin Trudeau's gone back to an old Liberal trick. He's proposing a lazy, blanket ban on handgun ownership for all Canadians instead of taking aim at the real criminals who are using guns to commit crimes."

Scheer also said a Conservative government would move to implement a lifetime gun ownership ban on any lawful gun owner found to be engaging in "straw purchases" — bulk firearms purchases for re-sale on the black market.

Toronto Police display guns seized during a series of raids. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Although the statistics have been disputed by some sources, straw purchases have become an issue in recent years as police have warned that more legally procured firearms are being used in crimes.

The Toronto police have suggested that half of all guns recovered at crime scenes in that city were once bought legally in Canada.

The Liberals have also flagged this diversion issue, saying a spike in burglaries at Canadian gun stores demands a better system for tracing firearms.

However, critics have argued that there is not sufficient data on the source of firearms used in crimes to back up those claims.

Bill C-71 would force retailers in Canada to record all inventory and gun sales by logging registration and Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) numbers. Most major gun retailers, such as Canadian Tire and Cabela's, already follow this sort of record-keeping practice.

Scheer said he would enforce his proposed lifetime bans by instituting new criminal penalties for any individual selling a firearm to someone subject to such a ban.

Scheer also promised measures to temporarily seize firearms from people detained for mental health-related issues, saying the "mentally unstable" should not have easy access to guns.

"A Conservative government led by Andrew Scheer will ensure that any firearms owner detained under provincial mental health legislation will immediately have their firearms seized," he said. "They will be able to apply, after a period of time, to have their property returned if they can demonstrate that their condition has stabilized."

In addition to C-71, the Liberal government has vowed to study a ban on handguns in an effort to tamp down on gun-related crime following a series of deadly incidents this year in Canadian cities big and small.

Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair has been tasked by the prime minister with "an examination of a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians" — a proposition that has opened up a divide between urban and rural Liberal MPs, with some warning the rights of lawful gun owners must be considered when crafting new laws to curb gun crime.

The efficacy of such a policy has been questioned by experts — including RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, who has said she's not sure a ban is the answer to a spike in gun-related crimes.

Adam Palmer, the president of Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, has also said handgun possession is already heavily regulated by existing firearms legislation.

"Criminals will still come into possession of them, and still use them for illegal purposes," he said in a statement.

Heidi Rathjen, coordinator of the gun control advocacy group Poly Remembers, has called the federal government's decision to study handguns "very encouraging."

"There are different ways to get at it. It doesn't necessarily have to be taking away guns from people who bought them legally," she said. "The idea is that there's no new purchases of handguns and assault weapons, and the government needs to endorse the principle that certain guns should not be in the hands of civilians."

The Coalition for Gun Control, led by Wendy Cukier, has launched an advocacy campaign called "Trigger Change" to encourage the Liberal government to enact tougher measures on firearms ownership.

New border smuggling task force

Guns smuggled from the U.S. are still a persistent problem for Canadian police.​ Scheer said Wednesday a Conservative government would establish a new firearms smuggling task force at the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

"This task force will oversee an increase of frontline officers, deployment of new technology, and further use of criminal intelligence. They will also be authorized to work with law enforcement counterparts on both sides of the border to identify smuggling routes, and ensure that smugglers and those employing them are put behind bars where they belong," the leader's office said in a statement.

Clarifications

  • This story has been updated to include more specific information about critics' response to police claims that half of guns used in crimes are domestically sourced.
    Nov 23, 2018 1:50 PM ET

About the Author

John Paul Tasker

Parliamentary Bureau

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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