Liberal firearm ban unlikely to curb gun violence, RCMP union says, calling for 'evidence based' policy

Gun retailers and owners were deeply critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s sweeping ban, saying it arbitrarily outlawed “military-style” firearms based solely on how they look.

OTTAWA — The union representing the RCMP says the Liberal government’s firearms ban is unlikely to curb gun violence in Canada, and is calling on Ottawa to instead introduce “evidence-based” measures to ensure public safety.

The National Police Federation, representing 20,000 RCMP members, issued a statement Monday expressing concern over the rising levels of gun violence in Canada in recent years. The group is seeking increased funding commitments from the federal government, largely to bolster protection measures along the Canada-U.S. border as a way to stem the smuggling of firearms into Canada.

Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation, said policies like the firearms ban introduced by Public Safety Minister Bill Blair earlier this year tend to be politically popular, but fail to address the root cause of gun violence. Blair in May introduced a sweeping prohibition on 1,500 “military-style” gun variants, effectively giving gun owners two years to turn in their now-illegal firearms.

“The narrative is that we need to restrict gun ownership because that will curtail crime, when really the evidence is that illegal gun trafficking leads to criminals owning guns, which leads to crimes with firearms,” Sauvé said. “So really, we need to look at the source of the problem.”

Criticism of the Liberal gun ban comes as the federal government has so far failed to secure a private-sector contractor to design a federal buyback program, in which Ottawa will reimburse owners for the firearms that it deemed prohibited. The federal procurement office has issued two separate requests for proposals (RFPs) to administer the program, but received no interested bidders in response, even after it explicitly named companies that it hoped might offer a bid on the contract, including accountancy firms Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP and Ernst & Young LLP.

The latest contract, which closed Nov. 10, was offered at $78 million, according to one person familiar with the contract.

Gun retailers and owners were deeply critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s sweeping ban, saying it arbitrarily outlawed “military-style” firearms based solely on how they look, and wrongfully targeted law-abiding gun owners who do not commit the vast majority of gun violence.

Statistics Canada says the country had 678 homicides in 2019, of which 38 per cent were committed using firearms. Of those homicides, 60 per cent were committed using a handgun rather than a rifle.

The majority of those homicides were a result of gang violence, which has increased 10 per cent since 2015, the RCMP bargaining group said, and is carried out by people with little regard for the legal licensing of guns.

“Do we take the perspective that criminals will follow the law when it comes to firearms?” Sauvé said. “Or do we look at trying to strengthen the Border Integrity program, the National Weapons Enforcement program, our partnerships with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and all those areas.”

Gun control advocates, meanwhile, have been widely supportive of the Liberal gun ban, even as some worry the new measures do not go far enough.

The prohibition outlawed a hundreds of firearms, including the Ruger Mini-14, a small calibre semi-automatic rifle possessed by the shooter in Portapique, Nova Scotia who killed 22 people in April. The same firearm was used in the 1989 massacre of 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.

 Bill Blair, Federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

The Nova Scotia gunman did not own a valid firearms licence, and the Ruger Mini-14 and other firearms were held illegally.

“In fact, three of the four firearms used in the tragic mass shooting in Portapique, Nova Scotia, in April 2020, were obtained illegally in the United States,” the NPF said in its statement Monday.

Sauvé will be in discussions this week with members of Parliament in an effort to boost funding for the RCMP on its border control efforts, and to introduce smarter legislation aimed at minimizing gun crime.

The group is also calling on Ottawa to abandon its proposed buyback program, which could run well higher than initial cost estimates.

“It’s easy to make an Order in Council, and it doesn’t cost any money,” Sauvé said. “It’s more difficult to actually sit down and have some consultation and discuss what this is going to cost, because there is a cost to the taxpayer.”

Blair has in the past pegged the estimated cost for the buyback at between $500 million and $600 million. A representative for the minister did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

A separate analysis by the Fraser Institute suggests that could eventually cost more like $5 billion, based partly on recent figures from New Zealand’s firearms prohibition that has shot well over initial estimates.

Part of the inflated cost was also attributed to the immense complexity involved in a buyback, in which firearms would need to be rounded up, stored in safe complexes, and then destroyed in giant furnaces.

The Liberal gun registry, which was projected to cost just $2 million, ended up costing taxpayers more than $2.7 billion, the Fraser report said.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques