4.11.8 Gun control and ownership rights

Gun control in Canada has been an important, contentious and emotional issue for decades, especially since the Montreal Massacre and the subsequent passage of Bill C-68, the Firearms Act, by the Liberals in 1995, which required the registration of all firearms.

The Green Party of Canada opposes any and all unreasonable risks to citizens and society at large due to inappropriate use of firearms. We are not opposed to the use of firearms for safe, sustainable, and legal hunting, acknowledging that for many aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, wild game is an important source of food and cultural heritage.

As far back as 1934, legislation required the registration of handguns with records identifying the owner, the owner’s address and the firearm, and the possession of legal handguns has always tightly restricted, coming close to a virtual ban. Contrary to popular misperception, there still is a registry for restricted firearms, including all legal handguns. The problem with handguns is due mostly to illegal handguns smuggled from the USA.

Many concerned Canadians have asserted that the gun registry has helped keep law and order and save lives, and police officers across Canada have been divided on the issue. Many rural Canadians and First Nations people found the long gun registry (for non-restricted models of rifles and shotguns) onerous and discriminatory. We have always believed compromise was possible in reforming the registry to accommodate the concerns of legal gun users while ensuring that law enforcement agencies have the tools they need. We need to better balance these interests and ensure that Canadians are as safe as possible, without imposing ineffective or unreasonable restrictions on law abiding hunters and target shooters.

Although the registration of most “long guns” (rifles and shotguns) was ended by the Conservatives Bill C-19 in 2012, many non-hunters are unaware that there were and remain many other effective gun controls, including:

  • Every legal firearm owner must be licensed before owning, borrowing, transporting, using, or even touching any firearm.
  • Every licensed firearm owner, in order to be licensed, must take a firearms safety course, pass a comprehensive test, gain the approval of their spouse, and pass both local and national police checks, in addition to a 28 day waiting period.
  • A firearms registry remains for “restricted use” firearms, including all assault weapons, automatics, and handguns. Legal handguns are virtually banned for most uses or users.
  • There are stringent regulations for firearms dealers, and for firearms storage, handling and transportation.

However, illegal handguns held by gangs and drug dealers are a huge problem, especially in cities. It is time to crack down hard on gun smuggling across the U.S. border. Thousands of illegal handguns are coming across the border and into our urban centres. We need to work with enforcement agencies to press for action against gun smugglers and invest in tougher border measures to halt the movement of illegal firearms.

The risks created by having dangerous weapons in our urban centres are significant. The use of guns in our urban centres is typically not the same as the use of guns in our rural communities. We will ensure that law-abiding citizens pursuing legal activities in target shooting or hunting with long guns are free from unreasonable fees and the threat of criminalization.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Provide increased support for Integrated Border Enforcement Teams made up of officers from the RCMP, Canada Border Services, U.S. Customs, and the U.S. Coast Guard in their gathering of intelligence and arresting of gun smugglers;
  • Put strict measures in place for those who attempt to cross the Canada/U.S. border with illegal firearms. Ensure that gun smuggling is prosecuted as a gun crime of the highest order rather than as only a customs violation;
  • Fulfill Canada’s obligation under international agreements (United Nations Firearms Protocol and the Organization of American States Firearms Convention) to mark all imported firearms, as recommended by the Canadian Association of Police Boards and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police;
  • Ensure that gun crime charges are not dropped to facilitate convictions on lesser charges;
  • Review the registry for restricted firearms in consultation with First Nations, and with gun sports and hunter organizations. We will ensure law-abiding citizens do not have their firearms unreasonably confiscated;
  • Work with target shooting organizations to establish safe and protected locations where target shooting can be practiced.