OTTAWA – The Liberals' gun reform legislation passed the Senate Tuesday night, meaning changes to the rules related to firearm ownership will soon become law.
The bill's passage has been met with mixed reaction, echoing the way the legislation was received during its journey through Parliament.
The federal Conservatives say that, if elected in the fall, they would repeal the bill.
"Imposing a backdoor gun registry does nothing to keep Canadians safe. Not only does it fail to address gang violence or target gang criminals, but the word 'gang' does not even appear in the bill," said Conservative critic Pierre Paul-Hus.
"A Conservative government led by Andrew Scheer will get tough on gangs, give law enforcement the tools they need to keep Canadians safe and crack down on illegal gun smuggling. And we will repeal C-71 once and for all."
Gun control advocates who have been pushing for the bill to pass are heralding its imminent Royal Assent as a win.
Heidi Rathjen, a survivor of the Ecole Polytechnique shooting said the bill "contains a number of important measures that are sure to increase public safety," though she said it could have gone further.
"While the measures in Bill C-71 are a direct outcome of the Liberal's election platform, most are weaker than what one would expect from a majority government elected on the basis of a pro-gun control platform," she said in a statement.
Bill C-71 includes measures to broaden background checks for gun owners, toughen rules around the transportation of handguns, and tighten record-keeping requirements for the sale of firearms.
The legislation makes changes to the Firearms Act, the Criminal Code, and repeals changes made by the previous Conservative government.
The measures in Bill C-71 include:
- "Enhance" background checks for those who want to buy a firearm, by broadening the current requirement to consider matters from the last five years to considering information from throughout the person’s lifetime.
- Make it so commercial gun shop retailers will have to keep information about sales and inventory for at least 20 years and make these records accessible by police when warranted.
- Revamps the current way guns are classified in Canada. There are three types of guns in Canada: "non-restricted," such as hunting rifles and shotguns; "restricted," such as handguns and certain rifles and semi-automatic weapons; or "prohibited," including some handguns, modified riles, and fully automatic guns. These classifications will remain but the bill restores the system that sees Parliament define the three classes, but then leaves it up to the RCMP to classify specific guns.
The bill had been amended considerably by the Senate National Security and Defence Committee, but the Senate as a whole rejected those amendments so it passed without any changes from what the Liberals proposed. The bill did receive amendments in the House of Commons.
Conservative Sen. Don Plett issued a statement shortly after the bill’s passage, saying that it should not have been passed.
"We spent over 30 hours studying this bill and heard from 81 witnesses in Committee… Witnesses identified clear problems with this bill and begged us to fix them, and yet every effort to make constructive changes was blocked by the government’s appointed Senators," he said.
Plett said he doesn't think the bill will accomplish anything other than giving the impression of taking action, saying the Liberals are "making scapegoats out of law-abiding gun owners."
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was the one who introduced the bill. On his way into a Liberal caucus meeting on Wednesday, Goodale said that Conservatives' suggestions the bill amounts to a "backdoor gun registry" are "ludicrous," because the legislation was changed thanks to a Conservative amendment, to explicitly state the contrary.
"The law itself prohibits what the conservative are alleging," Goodale said.
Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair has recently said on CTV’s Question Period that implementing a national handgun ban is still on the table.
Goodale said Wednesday that he expects Blair to come forward shortly with recommendations about that potential ban.