Ottawa proposes new gun control measures

The federal Liberal government has introduced new gun control measures and insists they won’t lead to another long gun registry.

However, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale noted that gun violence is increasing in rural areas, and many offences do involve unregistered guns.

“To be clear, as promised, we are not reinstating any federal long gun registry,” he said.

“But in 2016, 31 percent of all gun related homicides involved these types of firearms that don’t need to be registered.”

Goodale said in Saskatchewan more than 60 percent of crimes involving guns happen outside major cities. The same is true in Atlantic regions where 56 percent are outside urban centres.

Canadian crime rates overall are declining, but gun crime is up. Incidents involving guns were up 30 percent from 2013-16, and homicides from guns are up by two-thirds, Goodale said.

Break-and-enter crimes to steal guns are up 56 percent, he added, and most of those stolen are unregistered long guns.

Bill C-71 would put more scrutiny on those who want to buy guns and defer to the RCMP’s expertise when it comes to firearm classification.

Background checks for potential gun buyers currently look at the person’s five-year history.

“That five-year limitation is being removed so the applicant’s full record for any violent or criminal behaviour will be taken into account,” he said.

Purchasers and retailers will have to produce and verify their valid licences to do business. Goodale said gun sellers will not provide the data to the government.

“But police would be able to gain access given reasonable grounds and with judicial authorization as appropriate,” he said.

For example, this could be to trace guns used at a crime scene.

The bill will repeal the current authority of the federal cabinet to classify firearms and instead leave it to the RCMP.

Not included in the bill but up for further discussion are four gun-related issues: strengthening commercial storage regulations; advertising of assault weapons; disclosure or flagging of mental-health issues in gun owners; and a way to identify unusual or large gun purchases.

Gun control has been politically divisive since former Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s Liberal government established a long gun registry in 1995. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government abolished it in 2012 but not before it racked up more than $1 billion in costs.

Manitoba Conservative MP Candice Bergen said she was concerned the Liberals were trying to create a back-door registry.

The Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights said it would take some time to go through the legislation but was concerned the bill targets law-abiding citizens.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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