Following the introduction of Bill C-71, several constituents have called with concerns. Thank you for your comments, and let me share the thoughts on the bill of Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and myself.
As promised, Bill C-71 is part of a sensible package of measures to address gun crime. The bill emphasizes public safety and supports effective police work, while being balanced and practical toward law-abiding firearms owners and businesses.
This includes $100 million a year to help provinces and municipalities combat gang activities that often involve illegal guns, and more resources and technology at the border to interdict weapons smuggling.
Through Bill C-71, background checks will be strengthened for those seeking to acquire or renew a firearms licence.
Here are some criticisms and answers to them:
First, do the changes to the licensing system open the door to a federal long-gun registry? The answer is an emphatic NO!
To own a non-restricted firearm (such as a typical hunting rifle or shotgun), you are required to hold a valid license. To qualify for that license, you need to pass a background check and take a gun safety course. But what many people don’t know is that the current law doesn’t actually require you to produce your valid license at the time you purchase a firearm. That’s a rather large loophole which is being exploited by criminals!
Bill C-71 will require the buyer to produce their license and the seller to verify that it is valid. Validation can be done over the phone or online and will take no more than a few minutes. This process relates to whether the buyer currently holds a valid license to own a non-restricted firearm. Period. It does NOT relate to any particular gun, nor would any specific firearm be identified. So there is no hint of a registry.
Second, the record-keeping requirement for commercial firearm retailers is not the same thing as a federal long-gun registry. Most retailers already keep, for their own economic, safety and liability reasons, adequate records. This is done for practical purposes such as keeping insurance rates low. Bill C-71 will make this good business practice the industry standard. This requirement has been in place across the United States since 1968 without issue or complaint – and they certainly don’t have a registry.
Of note, between 2013 and 2016, the total number of criminal incidents with guns climbed by 30%. Gun homicides went up by two-thirds. Break-ins for the purpose of stealing firearms went up by 56%. We must not be complacent in our duty to protect Canadians.
I’m a hunter and I shot clays almost every weekend with my son and daughters. Bill C-71 targets criminals and gangs and restricts their easy access to weapons. I fully support this bill.