From the Senate- the following is taken from Remarks Made by Senator Pamela Wallin in the Senate Chamber on November 29, 2018, Regarding Bill C-71, an Act to amend the Firearms Act.
We all know that guns have the capacity to inflict grave damage, to take a life or save a life, or protect people or property – it all depends on whose hand is on the trigger.
A Torontonian doesn’t need a rifle to keep coyotes out of the barn, but a farmer in Saskatchewan does. Neither needs an Ak-47 or an Uzi.
There is no denying that gun-related violent crimes are on the rise, which is why it is puzzling that Ottawa is making Bill C-71 a priority –a bill that aims to tighten current rules affecting law-abiding citizens– rather than those concerning violence committed by gangs, criminals, wannabe terrorists or those with mental health issues.
Handgun homicides have increased 60 percent in the past year and most have been carried out by gang members or criminals. So, we clearly have a problem with the illegal use of illegally held guns in the commission of crimes.
Saskatchewan has the painful distinction of having the highest crime rate in the country, both rural and urban. But while the rate is higher, the actual numbers tell a different story.
Saskatchewan had 37 homicides in 2017, a third of which were committed with firearms. Toronto is currently at 91 homicides, 47 of which have been shootings.
Rick Rudell, a University of Regina professor, in a book on rural crime in Canada says, “You get years where the numbers will spike, yet the amount of attempted murders is the same, and that could be a function of luck and good medical care. When you’re living in the country and you’re an hour away from a trauma centre, or two hours or three hours, your mortality rates increase.”
Rudell also says we must look at economics, noting that Alberta’s rural homicide rate spiked two years ago, coinciding with the downturn in the oil industry and the resulting unemployment.
The federal government is currently asking Canadians for their input on a nationwide handgun ban. Let’s have that debate, rather than just focusing on the rules for law-abiding gun owners.
C-71 is an easy way for politicians to say to the public that they are taking action on gun violence. But they’re not.
Is the biggest problem with firearms in Canada a farmer taking his rifle from one piece of land to another?
And how can we even ensure enforcement of these new, proposed new laws, when police forces are already stretched so thin. There are stories of citizens in rural Saskatchewan calling 911 to report a crime, and being told to lock their doors, find a place to hide and call their insurance company. Would you accept that advice if your family was in danger? This kind of response would be completely unacceptable in a city.
Why aren’t we looking at increasing the ranks of police officers, or perhaps considering tougher mandatory minimum sentences for using a stolen or illegal gun in the commission of a crime as a disincentive for the bad guys?
Canadians who use guns lawfully already undergo checks on their mental health and any past criminal activity. Now, their entire histories will be looked at. No problem, but this will require more resources.
My concern with bill C-71 is that it focuses on penalizing certified, legal gun owners- those who use rifles as tools, not weapons.
The administrative burden will not be impossible to manage, but Bill C-71 will not solve the real problem of criminals with guns killing people on the streets of this country.