Local MPs upset over gun ban

May 18, 2020, 2:05 am
Rob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Souris-Moose Mountain MP Dr. Robert Kitchen, Yorkton-Melville MP Cathay Wagantall, and Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire

The federal government announced a gun ban in Canada just weeks after the Nova Scotia mass shooting that led to the deaths of 22 people, and the three MPs for southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba are concerned about the ban.

Rob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The federal government announced a gun ban in Canada just weeks after the Nova Scotia mass shooting that led to the deaths of 22 people, and the three MPs for southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba are concerned about the ban.

The gun ban is aimed at military-grade assault-style weapons and covers 1,500 types of these firearms. Licensed gun owners can no longer sell, transport, import or use these weapons in Canada beginning immediately.

There will be a two-year amnesty period that allows owners of these weapons to comply with the ban and Trudeau said he will pass legislation that provides fair compensation to gun owners. A permit can be obtained to sell these weapons to buyers outside of Canada.

Details on a buyback program for these firearms has yet to be released, but any gun owner not in compliance with the ban by April 30, 2022 could face sanctions under the criminal code.

The ban was enacted through regulations approved by an order-in-council from cabinet and not through legislation because Parliament isn’t meeting regularly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trudeau made gun control promises during last year’s federal election and said the government was in the process of banning assault weapons when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only,” said Trudeau. “To kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time.”

“There is no use and no place for such weapons in Canada,” said Trudeau. “You don’t need an AR-15 to bring down a deer.”

When the two-year amnesty period is up gun owners must surrender these weapons, but there will be an option to apply to have a firearm grandfathered in — the government has not yet released details on the grandfather application process.

It’s currently estimated that there are over 100,000 of the banned firearms that fall under the military-grade assault weapon category in Canada.

The nine principal gun models being prohibited in Canada as a part of the gun ban are:

M16, M4, AR-10 and AR-15 rifles (upper receivers will also be banned)

Ruger Mini-14 rifle

Vz58 rifle and CZ858 rifle

M14 rifle

Beretta CX4 Storm carbine

Robinson Armament XCR rifle

CZ Scorpion EVO 3 carbine and pistol

SIG Sauer SIG MCX and SIG Sauer SIG MPX carbine and pistol

Swiss Arms Classic Green and Four Seasons Series rifles

Complete list of prohibited firearms: http://canadagazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2020/2020-05-01-x3/html/sor-dors96-eng.html

In addition to prohibited models, all firearms with a bore 22mm or greater or firearms capable of discharging a projectile with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000 Joules will be banned.

Trudeau said the the government will also be looking at banning certain handguns and improving border security in the future to supplement the initial assault-rifle ban.

“We know there is more to do on strengthening gun control in this country which is why we’re going to be moving forward when Parliament allows it with stronger measures around borders, stronger measures around safe storage,” said Trudeau. “Measures around handguns to permit municipalities to ban handguns within their city limits.”

The gun ban has been met with criticism by gun owners and Conservative leaders because they say it targets legal gun owners.

“Taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens does nothing to stop dangerous criminals who obtain their guns illegally,” said Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer. “The reality is, the vast majority of gun crimes are committed with illegally obtained firearms.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Ottawa should be focussed on the smuggling of illegal weapons at the border and work on strengthening jail sentences for gun crimes.

Local MPs say their constituents are not happy with the gun ban Trudeau introduced and have been hearing about the negative impact this issue will have on their areas.

Cathay Wagantall

Yorkton-Melville MP Cathay Wagantall says her constituents are upset with the ban.

“On an emotional level they’re very upset,” said Wagantall. “I’ve fielded a great number of calls and emails already in regard to this. They’re very frustrated as the majority of them would be gun owners on some level and they just see this again as another infringement on their rights and freedoms to have their firearms.”

“I was just listening to an interview on the radio and there’s a lot of misinterpretations by people who don’t use firearms or understand the dynamics around the whole issue. Education is a big thing,” said Wagantall.

“The heart hurts when we see these terrible things take place and I totally resonate with how people feel about these crimes that do take place and how desperately you want something to take place that can stop it. Unfortunately this action on the part of the Liberal government will not do that.”

With the situation surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, Wagantall says this was not the time to enact such a major ban.

“For us as members of Parliament — and for the firearms owners as well as everyday Canadians — we’re seeing this as another affront on our democratic processes,” said Wagantall. “They’ve taken advantage of a situation where we’re in a pandemic scenario and the House is not meeting regularly.”

“The opportunity to put it forward as legislation isn’t there in the same way so they’ve taken advantage of an order-in-council just with a stroke of a pen to bring into effect something that should have been fully debated and more information shared,” said Wagantall.

“Definitely from our caucus position, we’re on the side of law-abiding firearms owners and we have a solid platform of recommendations that we’ve given to the Liberals over and over again and that was part of our election platform as well that would make a difference. It’s in equipping our police to deal with gangs and firearms theft to set up the CBSA (Canada Border Service Agency) with a proper task force.”

“A colleague of mine in British Columbia was approached by a member of his riding who is with the CBSA and said, ‘look we know on a regular basis they’re coming across the border, we don’t have the capacity to deal with this the way that it should be dealt with.’ There are many steps so the frustration is why take this route? When there are other things more important.”

“They did their own research on banning handguns and assault-style firearms and their findings showed that in all cases the data does not conclusively demonstrate that these bans in any way lead to a reduction in gun violence,” said Wagantall.

“If someone wants to perform a horrific crime they are going to find a way to do it and we do need to do everything we can to be diligent on our side.”

With Covid-19 causing the House of Commons to make adjustments, the order-in-council wasn’t a fair way to go through the gun ban process says Wagantall.

“I can’t even put into words how frustrated we are with the way the government has shut down our house and our ability to counter what they’re doing or deal with it the way that we should be,” said Wagantall.

“It’s just another blow to the circumstances we find ourselves in where they are having incredible opportunity to spend without a lot of oversight.”

“All these things can be dealt with, that’s why we have a House where we sit and work through a whole process. It’s very frustrating and difficult when we have people who say you need to get rid of them.”

A lack of information and misinformation regarding the Nova Scotia tragedy has been a factor in this gun ban says Wagantall.

“The frustrating thing about this is the truth isn’t being told,” said Wagantall. “They said one of those weapons was from Canada — although two were smuggled in and the individual did not have a license — but they didn’t indicate that the one he had from Canada actually belonged to the RCMP constable that he killed. Just saying just one was from within Canada (is deceptive) so the messaging is somewhat elusive. (The government is) Taking advantage of that, taking advantage of this Covid-19 pandemic scenario and we aren’t meeting as a House.”

Something that Wagantall is especially concerned about is the amount of money the government will be putting into the gun ban when it could have been used in other ways to help with gun violence in Canada.

“They’re going to have to use taxpayer dollars to collect all of those firearms and once they collect them and pay these individuals out, they also need to destroy them,” said Waganatall. “Plus they have to compensate numbers of businesses that have millions of dollars worth of these firearms in stock.”

“They’re talking millions, but it’s going to be billions. So why would you spend billions on that rather than the money on outfitting our police with better gear, bringing in better programs to help disenfranchised youth, dealing better with mental health and addictions, providing funding to the CBSA, and supporting our prosecutors — the police will tell you it’s a revolving door on these issues.”

“There’s so many things that we’ve encouraged them to do instead of basically penalizing law-abiding firearms owners,” said Waganatall. “We’ll continue to go that route. There are lots of things we can do instead of using this fear tactic that’s misleading.”

Dr. Robert Kitchen

MP for Souris-Moose Mountain Dr. Robert Kitchen says this has been a hot topic of concern for his constituents.

“I’ve been on the phone and my email has been going like crazy since this came about last week,” said MP for Souris-Moose Mountain Dr. Robert Kitchen.

“I’ve been explaining where things stand and there’s definitely a lot of concern.”

“These aren’t just from one area, these are from throughout the whole riding going from Rocanville all the way down to Coronach to Big Beaver and up into Odessa and down into Carnduff, all over the place. They’re extremely upset about this,” said Kitchen.

“One of the things that is very telling about what they’re saying is how this was done, by it being done by an order-in-council.”

“They’re extremely annoyed that there wasn’t an opportunity for them to have had their voice — which would have been me — express their opinion in the House of Commons and have it debated. They’re extremely annoyed about how this has come about and the steps that this prime minister and his cabinet have done to basically make changes,” said Kitchen.

Kitchen says this isn’t just something that’s causing a stir in his area, but it’s been a country wide concern with this being the avenue the government has chosen to deal with gun violence.

“My caucus had a meeting and there were a lot of concerns,” said Kitchen. “It’s not just my riding we’re hearing this from, it’s throughout the country that we’re hearing concerns about this.”

“Concerns that we’re basically taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens and the reality is that this doesn’t stop dangerous criminals from obtaining these guns illegally.”

“If you’re going to put money towards things then put it towards things that we were proposing during the last elections campaign, like putting money towards the CBSA firearms smuggling task force so that it stops and gives them more money to stop this illegal movement of guns into Canada,” said Kitchen.

“Implement a better information sharing process to ensure police forces are easily co-operating with each other and the RCMP to track these illegal firearms. Look at other things like maybe, possession of a smuggled firearm as a criminal offence with a mandatory sentence of five years in prison.”

“Those are the sort of things we proposed and the things that we still will be championing,” said Kitchen. “But to punish law-abiding citizens who do everything they need to do and to label them as a criminal is extremely disheartening to every one of them.”

The timing doesn’t sit right with Kitchen the way Trudeau went about enacting the gun ban.

“For them to come with this during a time of crisis when people are concerned with Covid-19 — it’s heartbreaking to see what happened in Nova Scotia and our hearts go out to every person impacted by that, but the individual — every gun that he had during that was illegal,” said Kitchen. “They definitely seized it to their advantage.”

Larry Maguire

It’s no different for Larry Maguire, MP, Brandon-Souris with how his constituents and colleagues feel about the gun ban.

“I’ve heard lots of negative feedback,” said Maguire. “Persons think this is a mechanisms that will take the guns out of the hands of those individuals who want to use them for harmful means, but they won’t.”

“Many of our veterans and retried police offers have firearms in their possession and they’ve made these people into criminals by banning guns that they have without any explanation to them as to why they would do that to people who are law-abiding citizens,” said Maguire.

“For ranchers who use these firearms on their farms for predators, for sports shooters, for hunters — these are people who are some of the most well trained and well vetted people in the world in regards to how to handle firearms.”

“So it’s a situation of wanting to do everything we possibly can, but allowing these people to be able to promote the activities and work with the activities that they’re trained to be allowed to do.”

The biggest concern for Maguire is how a move like this will cost taxpayers money that could be better spent in other areas to deal with gun violence.

“This legislation does nothing to stop the smuggling of illegal firearms across the American border into our country,” said Maguire. “That’s the long-term solution for safety.”

“Banning a bunch of firearms that have to have permits and well trained individuals with a permit to even get a license to purchase a gun — these are law-abiding citizens and they’re not the problem.”

“The situation is, the government is going to use public money to buy back property from individuals that they have confiscated and made valueless instead of using those funds to put a task force together — as we in the Conservative Party called for in the election last year — to find mechanisms to control the illegal smuggling of firearms into Canada,” said Maguire.

“In 2018, of the incidents in Toronto where firearms were used, 70 per cent of those firearms were smuggled into the country,” said Maguire. “You couldn’t even buy them here, they’re not legal to be bought in Canada.”

Another major topic for Maguire surrounding gun violence is mental health and the need for the government to invest more in that area to help with situations like this.

“The other main topic to help tackle gun violence is mental health,” said Maguire. “We need to put a lot more funds into mental health situations because there’s a link to a mental health history of many of these violent crimes.”

“We need to make sure the governments are doing everything they can to help support our mental health programs as often as they can.”

The overwhelming problem with the gun ban is the process used to enforce it with everything else going on right now in Canada says Maguire.

“To put this in place as an order-in-council without any debate in Parliament on it and without bringing a bill forward in the middle of the worst pandemic the world has seen in the last 100 years and to do it 12 days after the worst mass murder we’ve seen in Canadian history — when we know all the guns used in that situation were illegal — is just disrespectful to Canadians in general.”

“We want to make sure everybody is safe — that’s the number one rule of a Canadian government to make sure everybody can live safely in their country,” said Maguire. “Maybe a lot of people don’t understand that you have to have a possession acquisition license to be able to purchase a gun today. In Canada you have to go through a rigorous training to get that and do that and pass a test.”

“The timing is pretty suspect,” said Maguire. “We have a pandemic going on in Canada that many people have fallen through the cracks on a month and a half later and we’re still trying to deal with that at the same time as provinces are trying to open up their economies again.”

“I think that the governments time could be much better used to be able to make sure our people are being able to have roofs over their heads, pay the rent, and be able to have food on the table.”