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Opinion

Canada needs a genuinely federal police force to make good on its firearms mandate 

By Christian Leuprecht and Dave Cassels       

Firearms legislation is bound to be controversial. On the one hand, a government that is actually serious about firearms could act on any number of options that do not require legislation. On the other hand, C-21, however inchoate, represents a genuine effort to balance individual interest with community safety across a large country where values, interests and priorities vary widely.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, pictured June 2, 2021, testifying remotely before the House Public Safety Committee. Bill C-21 would have given municipalities the power to make owning handguns illegal. But most of the handguns used in the commission of those offences are already illegal: only one of 20 handguns seized by Toronto Police between January and mid-February 2021 was legal. Screen capture courtesy of ParlVu

Gun safety has been on the legislative docket consistently since the École Polytechnique shootings in 1989. Gun owners now take courses, undergo waiting periods, and are subject to a stringent licensing system to own, transport, and handle a firearm. So, why do well over 1,000 Canadians continue to die from firearms annually? With the close of the legislative session an honest attempt to remedy this issue in Bill C-21 has yet again been pushed back.  Since the legislation is bound to be reintroduced in one form or another, this is a propitious moment to step back and take stock of the government’s options.

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