OTTAWA—An email blast from Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch to supporters shows her firing a 1972 Walther P1, not what two national gun associations had identified as a Nazi-era semi-automatic weapon, a 9mm Walther P38, the owner of the gun told The Hill Times later Tuesday night after reading the story.
“The handgun is not a P38. P38s in Canada are prohibited because of the barrel length. That gun is a 1972 Walther P1. Thousands of them were made for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. They were used in intelligence service. Though I cannot confirm, it is very likely mine is one of those,” said Richard Wakefield, in an email to The Hill Times.
In fact, P38 Walthers are not prohibited, but restricted, as the barrel length is 125 mm and, according to the RCMP prohibited firearms, are those with a barrel length equal to or less than 105 mm, whereas those with a barrel length less than 470 mm are restricted. As well, The Hill Times was unable to independently verify Mr. Wakefield’s claims about the P1’s use.
Canadian Shooting Sports Association executive director Tony Bernardo had identified the handgun as a “firearm of tremendous historical significance as it was the issue sidearm of the German Army (Wehrmacht) throughout World War II.”
Blair Hagen, a spokesperson for the National Firearms Association, also told The Hill Times, “it appears to be a Walther P38, a firearm brought back as war trophy by thousands of Canadian servicemen in World War II.”
Ms. Leitch’s (Simcoe-Grey, Ont.) campaign would not confirm the specific model of gun she was pictured firing, and would only say that it is a “9mm,” in an email to The Hill Times. Her campaign did not return further calls for clarification and did not return The Hill Times’ request for further comment on the origin of the gun, or the message intended by including the photo in the email.
But Michael Diamond, Ms. Leitch’s campaign spokesperosn, told CFRA’s Evan Solomon on Tuesday evening that Ms. Leitch has nothing to apologize for.
“It was not a mistake, it was not purposeful, but I do think it was a great photo of Kellie doing something that she enjoys doing,” Mr. Diamond said in the interview on Ottawa Now on 580 CFRA Tuesday evening.
In the March 17 email blast she sent to her Conservative Party supporters that contains the photos, titled, “A common sense approach to firearms regulation,” Ms. Leitch talked about the “long-standing tradition” of recreational firearm use in her family. Ms. Leitch said she supported former prime minister Stephen Harper’s decision to scrap the long-gun registry, and promises, as prime minister, to never institute another. She also stated that long-guns should be recognized as personal property; the classification system should be replaced with “clear objective criteria” for gun owners; firearms classifications should not be under the sole purview of the RCMP, but should be made by Canadian citizens who are gun users, as well as law enforcement; and gun licences last for 10 years, not the current five years to reduce paperwork for gun owners.
“Canada has a long-standing tradition of using firearms for hunting and for recreational purposes. My grandfather was a farmer in Manitoba. He hunted ducks and geese and was an active member of Ducks Unlimited. I grew up in Fort McMurray where hunting is a part of the fabric of life for many,” Ms. Leitch stated in her email.
“So I understand the importance of firearms to law-abiding Canadians right across this country. Very often, firearms are cherished possessions with a great deal of sentimental value, invoking memories of our parents and grandparents,” she said in the email.
Mr. Bernardo said he personally “had the pleasure” of coaching Ms. Leitch on several different pistols during his association’s annual Parliamentary Day at the Range event last June. This included instruction on how to shoot a Luger, which has a strong likeness to the gun in the photo, and also has German origins; as well as another Walther model, a PPK, which Mr. Bernardo classified as the “James Bond gun.”
“Ms. Leitch demonstrated excellent firearms safety habits, and proved to be a very competent shooter,” said Mr. Bernardo, who added that he wasn’t aware if Ms. Leitch owned a Walther P-38.
“As I said, she was exemplary in her safe handling of these firearms and I would be delighted to coach her again,” Mr. Bernardo said.
Responding to Ms. Leitch’s decision to use a gun with this background, Mr. Hagen said: “She shows good taste in using a finely made firearm of historical value, and she is certainly showing that shooting handguns is an enjoyable and relaxing activity.”
Conservative leadership contender Rick Peterson, a bilingual businessman from Vancouver, told The Hill Times in an email that he sees “nothing wrong with the picture at all,” and declined to comment on the gun’s origin.
“Kellie appears to be shooting this pistol under supervision at a shooting range, and has every right to do so,” he said, noting that his own firearms policy goes “beyond” what all the other candidates have proposed.
According to Wikipedia, this type of gun has also been used in 20 other countries, including by Finnish UN peacekeeping forces, France, Macedonia, Portugal, Sweden, South Africa, Italy, France, Sweden, Lebanon, West Germany, and others.
“The tone of the article in The Hill Times was clearly an attempt to smear Kellie. You owe her, myself, and the entire readership a clarification, retraction and apology. By the way, she also fired the following of my firearms that day: [a] 1913 Luger (German WWI), [a] StG44 clone (replica of the German StG44 from WWI, the same one Brad Pitt used in Fury), [a] Sig P226, Cz85, Cz858, and [a] AR15 (which is the resulting target she is holding),” stated Mr. Wakefield.
Conservative leadership candidates had until Tuesday, March 28, to get sign up party members for the leadership convention on May 27 in Toronto.
Editor’s note: This story originally and incorrectly reported that the gun appeared to be 9mm semi-automatic Walther P-38, the same handgun used by the German Army in World War II, based on confirmation from two gun experts. But the owner of the handgun contacted The Hill Times and identified the gun as a 1972 Walther P1. The story has been updated and corrected. The Hill Times apologizes for this error.
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