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Canada Gun-control survey finds support for limiting access to handguns and assault weapons, countering government survey

A new survey on gun control has found a majority of Canadians support limiting access to handguns and assault weapons, countering a federal government survey that came to the opposite conclusion and faced allegations of tampering.

Ottawa has been looking into whether to limit or ban access to handguns and assault weapons since a mass shooter on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue last summer killed two people and injured 13 others.

The survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, found 64 per cent of those polled supported limiting access to handguns, while 27 per cent did not. For assault weapons, support for additional limits was even stronger, at 77 per cent, with 17 per cent opposed.

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The survey comes on the heels of an online questionnaire conducted by the office of the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair that found little support for limits on either handguns or assault weapons. Critics suggested the questionnaire was flawed and The Globe and Mail spoke to one firearms enthusiast who admitted he used automation software to submit as many as 35,000 responses.

To test critics’ assertion that the government’s questionnaire was gamed, some of the questions on the Angus Reid Institute’s survey were exactly the same as those on the government questionnaire.

“We were as intrigued as anyone by the results of the survey that was conducted by the Government of Canada,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute. “We decided it was probably a good idea to to go into the field with one that was more scientifically conducted.”

The Angus Reid Institute survey also asked about support for an outright ban for civilian possession of handguns and assault weapons. Sixty-one per cent of respondents supported or strongly supported a complete handgun ban and 75 per cent supported an assault-weapons ban.

Additional gun limits were not unanimously supported, however. Nearly three-quarters of current gun owners said they did not support a ban on handguns or want any additional limits and a majority did not support a ban or additional limits on assault weapons.

The online survey of 1,525 Canadian members of the Angus Reid Forum was conducted from April 26 to April 30. Surveys of this size carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Last month, Mr. Blair’s office released a 31-page report on its continuing inquiry into additional gun controls. The report focused on the consultations and public responses Mr. Blair’s office sought out last year and did not include policy recommendations.

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Asked about the Angus Reid Institute’s survey findings, a spokesman for Mr. Blair noted the government’s online questionnaire was not meant to be a survey or poll, and said it was unfortunate that someone admitted to gaming the questionnaire.

“Our government remains concerned about increasing levels of firearm violence across our country,” said Ryan Cotter. “There is no option that will be discounted and all possibilities will be considered. However, as seen by the results of our report, gun control in Canada remains a polarizing issue with differing opinions and we need to take the appropriate time to address the concerns that were raised. Whereas, other countries were able to build consensus about the need to prohibit certain firearms, we have yet to acquire that in Canada.”

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