Noah Schwartz: On gun control, Liberals opt for wedge policy over real change


The new legislation will hurt Canada’s economy and exacerbate the urban-rural divide in this country, while failing to provide support to the communities that suffer the most from gun violence.

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Following a horrific mass shooting in the United States, Canada’s Liberal government announced a series of new gun control measures on Monday, the most controversial of which is a freeze on handgun purchases in all the countries.

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Some of the new measures are small tweaks to existing laws, rebranded to win over urban voters unfamiliar with the country’s strict gun laws. For example, the government has promised to bring controversial policy proposals from south of the border, like red flag laws and bans on high-capacity magazines, which Canada already has. The one thing all the new rules have in common is that none of them will make you any safer.

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Handguns are already tightly controlled in Canada, with a rigorous licensing and registration regime in place for decades. To be allowed to own a handgun in Canada, a person must complete a 2½ day course, submit to automatic and continuous background checks by the RCMP, wait several months and spend hundreds of dollars in licensing fees and registration before even thinking about buying a handgun.

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It is the lax gun regulations across the border that provide firepower to criminal gangs in Canada and fuel gun violence. The United States has the most civilian-owned firearms in the world, and in many states a single background check or unregulated private sale is all that stands between a potential killer and a firearm.

The vast majority of handguns used in crime in Canada are smuggled from the United States. This number reaches 86% in Toronto. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has stated in the past that a ban on handguns have little impact on crime in major Canadian cities.

These measures will have the effect of devastating the Canadian sport shooting community. Over 600,000 Canadians are licensed to own handguns. Many of them are sport shooters and collectors who have invested a lot of time and money in their passion.

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While American gun owners primarily own firearms for self-defense, Canadian handgun owners are exclusively registered collectors and sport shooters. In most provinces, they must be members of a shooting club or sports shooting association, which can cost up to $400 per year. Many of these gun owners compete in local, provincial and national competitions. Some, like Lynda Kiejkoeven represent Canada at the Olympics.

Critically, recent research I have conducted, but not yet published, shows that many sport shooters generally support existing Canadian gun control laws. They are willing to submit to considerable government intrusion for the privilege of competing in their sport.

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The freeze on handgun sales in Canada is a rational, short-term calculation by the Liberal Party to capitalize on the legitimate outrage and sadness Canadians feel looking south of the border and build support in the ridings. urban.

However, the likely long-term implications of this will be detrimental to the Canadian economy and exacerbate the urban-rural divide in this country, while failing to provide support to the communities that suffer the most from gun violence.

A 2019 study by the Conference Board of Canada found that sport shooting alone supports 14,000 jobs across the country and contributes $1.8 billion to Canada’s GDP. Most gun stores in Canada are small to medium sized businesses located in rural and remote areas. They will likely be devastated by these measures.

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The Liberal Party has a long history of bridging regional divides and holding together our sometimes fragile Confederation. It’s time to get back to those roots. It’s time for the government to do the right thing: invest money in marginalized communities, get young people out of gangs and find them in jobs and affordable housing, and leave sport shooters alone.

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Noah Schwartz is assistant professor of political science at Concordia University and author of the forthcoming book, “On Target: Gun Culture, Storytelling, and the NRA.”

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