A federal government proposal to allow municipalities to ban handguns isn’t realistic, according to the head of the Yellowknife Shooting Club.
“A city-by-city gun ban would be wholly unworkable,” said Scott Cairns, the club’s president. “This has been recognized even by jurisdictions who were initially in favour of such legislation. It would be terrible legislation that would be tied up in courts forever.”
Earlier this year, the federal government introduced a new firearms ban for “military-style” assault weapons, which received a swift negative response from Northern gun owners.
In the federal government’s Sept. 23 speech from the throne, the Trudeau government stated that further restrictions will follow.
“The government will also continue implementing firearms policy commitments, including: giving municipalities the ability to further restrict or ban handguns; and strengthening measures to control the flow of illegal guns into Canada,” stated the speech.
The Globe and Mail reported on Tuesday that the federal government is going ahead with its plan to allow municipalities to issue federal handgun bans as per its throne speech promises last month.
The national newspaper also followed up with a scathing editorial stating that the move by the federal government was “political cowardice,” and not something that local governments and mayors across the country want to deal with.
Cairns said it would be more effective to use resources to lower violent crime by giving police additional resources to tackle gang-related violence, follow up on court-issued firearms prohibitions related to past criminal activity and prevent the legal system from using firearms-related charges as fodder for plea bargains in criminal cases.
Cairns echoed similar arguments made by firearms advocates across the country that the government’s direction shows that it “does not actually understand the existing framework of firearms legislation under their administration, nor understand how legislation can be used to combat societal problems.
“Firearms owners are some of the most law-abiding folk in Canada,” he stated. “Indeed, legal firearms ownership is a heavily regulated and policed privilege under Canadian Law. Owners of restricted weapons have taken two expensive courses, and have been scrutinized at least twice by intrusive RCMP background checks. They are required to abide by onerous storage, transportation and usage laws – the penalty for infraction (is) serious by any measure.”
He added that legal guns and firearms ownership are not the basis of the country’s problems when it comes to gun-related violence but rather “gang-related illegal activities” – often with guns obtained illegally.
Issue not a priority, mayor says
Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty said she doesn’t anticipate this issue being a priority on city council’s agenda anytime soon.
“It hasn’t been discussed at council and we really haven’t heard from residents on it, either,” Alty said. “I know in the federal government election time last year there were some municipalities down south that were raising this issue but here in Yellowknife it, it hasn’t been our focus.
“I don’t anticipate council (reviewing) it at the moment. I think it would be a pretty big step up from all of our current bylaws for the city to begin to policing a handgun ban, so at the moment I don’t foresee us going down this path.”
Other neighbouring provincial governments have either expressed an objection to municipalities taking on the role or, in the case of Saskatchewan, passed legislation to prevent municipalities from overseeing it.
Ngan Trinh, a senior communications advisor with the GNWT Department of Justice stated that there needs to be more clarity from the Government of Canada.
“It is too early for the GNWT to comment on this issue as we are awaiting the federal government to release more information on the handgun ban,” Trinh stated. “Once the federal plan has been shared, the GNWT will properly consider the proposed legislation and its implications on NWT municipalities and residents.”
NNSL Media also reached out to Municipal and Community Affairs on Wednesday.
Michael McLeod, MP for NWT, is unable to speak to the issue until Monday, according to an email from his office.