'The most promising legislation': Gun control activists respond to Canadian government bill to limit handguns

·4 min read

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government tabled a bill Monday that would put a national freeze on buying, selling and transferring handguns.

"One Canadian killed by gun violence is one too many," a statement from Trudeau reads. "I’ve seen all too well the tragic cost that gun violence has in our communities across the country."

"Today, we’re proposing some of the strongest measures in Canadian history to keep guns out of our communities and build a safer future for everyone."

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino presented the Bill C-21 in the House of Commons, which would also take away a firearms licence for anyone involved in acts of domestic violence or harassment, and would increase criminal penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking.

Additionally, the federal government wants to create a "red flag" law to allow courts to require anyone considered a danger to themselves or others to surrender their firearms to law enforcement, in an effort to address intimate partner violence, gender-based violence and self-harm incidents involving firearms.

"We made a commitment to Canadians to tackle gun violence," a statement from Mendicino reads.

"The legislation we introduced today is part of our comprehensive strategy to promote safe and responsible gun laws, invest in law enforcement to stop organized crime and illegal gun smuggling at the border, and to invest in communities to address root causes and prevent gun crime from occurring in the first place. This legislation will help to reduce gun violence and keep Canadians safe."

The activist group PolySeSouvient/PolyRemembers, made up of families and friends of victims shootings at Polytechnique, Dawson and the Quebec Mosque, reacted to the measures presented in Bill C-21 on Monday.

"This bill is the most promising legislation since the long gun registry was abolished in 2012," Nathalie Provost, Polytechnique graduate and survivor said in a statement. "And given the strength of the measures that have just been proposed, we remain optimistic."

"While a complete and lasting ban on assault weapons is not part of the bill, the Minister of Public Safety has committed to amending it so that the final version includes such a ban. Indeed, the national ban on handguns and the strong criteria surrounding firearm licences show us that the government has listened to victims, advocates and experts, even though this entailed reversing previously held government positions - to their credit."

"The Mosque community is extremely happy and grateful for having had the opportunity to witness the tabling of this bill," another statement, from Boufeldja Benabdallah, co-founder and spokesperson for the Quebec Mosque said.

"For five long years we have been advocating for a ban on handguns, as the this is the weapon that allowed one hateful young man to kills six of our brothers, severely wound five other and traumatize dozens of witnesses including children, all in less than two minutes. Minister Mendicino has delivered what Canadians want: a ban on new handguns and a phase out of existing ones."

Conservative public safety critic, Raquel Dancho, took to Twitter following the announcement, indicating that the legislation will not keep Canadians safe.

"Today’s announcement fails to focus on the root cause of gun violence in our cities: illegal guns smuggled into Canada by criminal gangs," Dancho wrote. "The [prime minister] has had 7 years to fix this serious issue yet he continues to chase headlines and bury his head in the sand."

"CPC focuses on less guns for criminals, whereas Liberals focus on less guns for law-abiding citizens, and softer, weaker sentencing for dangerous criminals with guns. It’s as simple as that."