Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is directing Bill Blair to examine a full ban on handgun and assault weapons, according to a mandate letter issued Tuesday to the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction.
The letter — which comes roughly one month after the cabinet shuffle that established this new portfolio — instructs Mr. Blair to support Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale on the passage of Bill C-71 (the Liberals’ gun control bill) and to work with the Minister on additional policies, regulations, or legislation that could help reduce gun crime.
Part of this work, the letter notes, should include studying the possibility of “a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians.”
The Globe and Mail has previously reported that the Prime Minister is deciding whether to pursue a gun ban as part of a new legislative agenda he would outline in a fall Throne Speech.
The mandate formalizes the federal government’s commitment to explore new gun-control measures.
City councils in both Montreal and Toronto have called on Ottawa to implement bans on handguns and assault weapons, citing previous mass shootings in both cities — including, most recently, a shooting spree along Toronto’s busy Danforth Avenue on July 22, 2018, that killed an 18-year-old and a 10-year-old girl, and a shooting last year at a Quebec City mosque that left six worshippers dead.
Standing just feet from the scene of the Toronto attack last month, Mr. Trudeau told reporters his government was open to a handgun ban and would be studying approaches that other jurisdictions have taken.
Ahead of a cabinet retreat in Nanaimo, B.C. last week, Mr. Blair confirmed gun policy would be one of their topics of discussion.
The opposition Conservative Party has previously said they would need to see details of a proposed ban in order to assess it. Pierre Paul-Hus, the shadow minister for public safety, said in a statement that they support measures that target “thugs and criminals” — but not those that would take away property from law-abiding sport shooters.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he welcomed word of Mr. Blair’s mandate letter. “If it’s going to help even a little bit, to stop one death from occurring in this city or one shooting, then to me it is a step that is worth the consideration that Minister Blair has been asked to give to it,” Mr. Tory told reporters.
Such a ban, Mr. Tory said, was only one in a series of measures being discussed to curb violence. And he stopped short of advocating for a national ban, saying he would favour one in Toronto, but would leave the issue of the rest of the country to the federal government.
“I actually would just start with Toronto because … I know the question of the rest of Canada carries with it various complications, political and other kinds of complications,” Mr. Tory said.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police on Tuesday said they have not taken a stand on a handgun ban and that they will be forming a special purpose committee to look into the issue of gun violence in more detail.
Tony Bernardo, executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, expressed anger over the government’s decision and vowed that the Liberals would pay in the coming election if they ever enacted a handgun ban.
The Association and its 30,000 members were instrumental in protesting the long-gun registry when it was introduced as part of Bill C-68 in 1995 and, eventually, lobbying the Conservative government to quash the registry 17 years later.
“If the Liberals think it was bad during C-68, go ahead and ban 1-million guns in Canada and see what happens,” Mr. Bernardo said. “There will be such protest between now and next election that the Liberals don’t have hope in hell of winning this.”
Mr. Bernardo said lawful gun owners who must follow tight restrictions on how they store and transport their weapons should not be blamed for the problem of gun violence.
“What we’re angry about is that politicians consistently try to deflect their inability to do anything about gang crime over onto citizens who obey the law.”