Liberal gun reforms ‘bizarre’: advisory board member
IAN MACLEOD, OTTAWA CITIZEN – December 4, 2015
The Liberals’ proposed gun law reforms are “just bizarre,” says a member of the committee advising Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on firearms issues.
Tony Bernardo, who sits on the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee, took aim at several promised gun law changes, especially one to shake up the committee’s membership to include public health advocates and women’s groups.
“Would you put non-medical experts on a medical committee? Would you take people who didn’t know anything about airplanes and put them on an aeronautical committee? It does seem a little bizarre,” the executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association said in an interview.
The previous Conservative government reorganized the advisory committee in 2013 after criticism of the committee’s makeup from gun-control groups. Three police officers, including a chief of police, replaced three gun enthusiasts.
“We have a large number of people on the committee that are police officers,” Bernardo said. “We’ve had at times medical professionals, including emergency room trauma surgeons. Putting somebody on there from a woman’s group? I can’t figure out the reason they might want to do that.
“You can’t even use the lame excuse that they’re victims of gun violence,” he said. “That’s not true, two-thirds of all gun violence (involve) men.”
His comments come amid a fresh spate of U.S. gun violence and efforts on both sides of the border to prevent more carnage. Mass shootings in California and Paris have claimed 144 lives in just three weeks.
On Thursday, Quebec tabled provincial legislation to create its own gun registry, while a Conference Board of Canada report on “active shooters” called for, among other measures, collaboration and training between police and private security guards at malls, theatres, schools and other crowded public spaces where many mass shootings occur.
In Friday’s throne speech, meanwhile, the Liberal government vowed to introduce legislation “that will get handguns and assault weapons off our streets.”
Bernardo said the low-key firearms advisory committee typically ranges from 10 to 13 members on renewable, two-year terms and meets no more than twice a year in Ottawa. Sometimes it’s to advise the minister on a specific request, other times for topics on the committee’s agenda.
The chief mandate, he said, is public safety. “No matter what you might read in a Liberal press release, nobody would ever do anything to compromise public safety.”
Public Safety Canada referred questions about the government’s proposed changes and current gun laws to the RCMP, which is responsible for licensing and regulating firearms under the Canadian Firearms Program. The RCMP declined comment.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising to repeal elements of Bill C-42, a Conservative gun law that came into force earlier this year.
The Liberals would restore the requirement for a specific permit to transport restricted and prohibited weapons to and from such locations as a shooting range or gunsmith. Under the C-42, the authorization to transport the weapon is automatic with the granting of a licence.
The Grits also would repeal a section of C-42 giving cabinet, not police, final say over which firearms are restricted. The Conservatives used the new power in August to reverse an RCMP ban on certain Czech and Swiss-made rifles that closely resemble prohibited automatic firearms.
Bernardo attacked those pledges and related ones in the Liberal platform, too, saying: “There’s stuff in there that’s just bizarre.”
He said the Liberal promise to ban restricted and prohibited guns from being “freely transported without a permit” is wrong; where a paper permit was previously required for certain transport purposes, C-42 did away with the paper permit and, starting in September, “authorizations to transport” were automatically included with a gun licence, with an electronic record available to police officers on their in-car computers.
He also took issue with the Liberal pledge to put “decision-making about weapons restrictions back in the hands of police, not politicians.”
“We elected politicians to go to Ottawa and make our laws, we don’t elect police to make our laws,” he said.
– With files from Postmedia News
Excerpted from the Liberal platform: gun reform promises
• Repeal changes made by Bill C-42 that allow restricted and prohibited weapons to be freely transported without a permit, and put decision-making about weapons restrictions back in the hands of police, not politicians.
• Provide $100 million annually to provinces and territories to support guns and gangs police task forces.
• Modify the membership of the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee to include knowledgeable law enforcement officers, public health advocates, representatives from women’s groups, and members of the legal community.
• Require enhanced background checks to purchase a handgun or other restricted firearm.
• Require purchasers to show a licence when they buy a gun, and require all sellers to confirm that the license is valid.
• Require vendors to keep records of all firearms inventory and sales to assist police in investigating firearms trafficking and other gun crimes.
• Immediately implement the imported gun marking regulations.
• Invest in technologies to enhance our border guards’ ability to detect and halt illegal guns from the United States entering into Canada and ensure Canada becomes a party to the international Arms Trade Treaty.