In response to the announcement of Bill C-21 by the federal government, released today, the DanforthFamilies for Safe Communities (DFSC)are using a statement, from our perspective as survivors and families directly affected by gun violence.
The scope of the Bill C-21 is broad and touches on several important topics, including: · gun control policy for handguns and assault rifles · the use of guns as a tool for terror or harm, especially toward women · the illegal flow of guns from smuggling, and diversion from legal sources · “red flag” laws and measures to remove weapons from those who show signs of violence, or express of hatred toward groups of people · limits to ammunition and magazine capacity · resources for programs for the youth living in underserved communities Of these, the bill falls short on two of the most critical issues: the control of handguns and the removal of prohibited, assault-style rifles. Bill C-21 allows each “municipality” to determine if handguns can be stored or used within their boundaries. Ignoring the constitutional challenges such a law would seem to invite, this law will most certainly create a patchwork of bylaws that will be ineffective for our nation and difficult to enforce. It was a legally imported, but stolen handgun from a Saskatchewan retailer, that found its way onto the Danforth that awful night. How would a Toronto ban on handguns help if Saskatchewan allows them, or elsewhere in Ontario, or the Greater Toronto area, but not the same municipality?
Recently, Montreal Mayor Valerie LaPlante reiterated her call for a national ban on handguns and assault weapons. In addition to the gun violence in Montreal in recent weeks, there were more shootings in Toronto along the Danforth. Indeed, the problem persists since our family’s tragedy in 2018.
Also related to handguns, the target of Bill C-21 is to reduce smuggling, diversion, and theft on a national basis. These are laudable goals but rely on resourcing, regulation, and oversight. An earlier bill in the name of gun safety, Bill C-71, contains useful measures on retail record-keeping and background checks for license applicants and was passed into law in 2019.
Unfortunately, that law still does not have the resources in place that would enforce those provisions.
We also see in this bill that the government is not going to follow through with a mandatory buyback of assault-style rifles, and therefore many existing (and fully functional) ones will likely remain in private hands. This announcement is a change from what was promised to Canadians in the last election. Requiring owners to store and not use/sell/bequeath such weapons – but still have them available – does not prevent illegal use. As prohibited weapons, with specifications intended for tactical combat use, and demonstrably capable of mass killings, these need to be taken out of circulation.
We encourage the federal government to keep working on the gun safety file and to amend Bill C- 21 regarding assault rifle retention policy and let’s move to have a national ban on handguns.
We will stand in solidarity with other victims of gun violence who are making the same request.