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Gun enthusiasts at the Toronto Sportsmen's Show at the Direct Energy Centre in at Exhibition Place in Toronto in 2009. (The Globe and Mail)
Gun enthusiasts at the Toronto Sportsmen's Show at the Direct Energy Centre in at Exhibition Place in Toronto in 2009. (The Globe and Mail)

Globe Editorial: First Take

Ottawa should have enforced gun-show rules, not repealed them Add to ...

The federal government’s decision to repeal regulations governing gun shows in this country could not have been made public at a worse time. The thought that organizers will not have to inform police whenever a gun show takes place, and that they will not be bound by any rules ensuring the security of the firearms and the safety of the location, is particularly chilling in light of the Sandy Hook massacre.

The government, of course, cannot be blamed for the timing. Emotions are running high in the wake of the slaughter of 20 elementary school children and six of their dedicated educators. Under different circumstances, the publication of the decision to repeal the regulations in the Canada Gazette on Wednesday might not have garnered as much attention, or even any at all. That needs to be said.

What also needs to be said here is that the government is repealing regulations that were adopted in 1998 but which never came into effect, thanks to repeated deferrals that delayed their enforcement to the end of last month.

Still, even an unemotional analysis of the decision leads to the conclusion that it makes sense to require the organizers of a gun show to notify local police and the chief firearms officer of the relevant province before the event. It is also logical to have rules in place to ensure the weapons are properly secured. In November, the CBC obtained a briefing note to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews that was dated February 2012 and which warned, “The CFO (Chief Firearms Officer) community has noted unsafe display of firearms across the country. CFOs have also noted incidents where exhibitors were criminally charged in relation to the trafficking and unauthorized possession of firearms at gun shows.”

Gun shows are a sensitive issue, particularly in the United States, where they are the biggest loophole in a set of minimalist gun controls that are already riddled with them. They have become weapons flea markets at which deadly firearms of dubious origin are bought, sold and traded without any form of oversight at all.

Canadian and American gun shows are not to be compared. Our gun controls are far stricter than those in the U.S., and not just because they actually exist. Gun show organizers are law-abiding gun enthusiasts and hunters who do not need or deserve to live under excessive government control.

Which is why the rules should have been enforced, not repealed. It is not in any way excessive to ask a gun-show organizer to co-operate with the local police by informing them of an event in advance. And it is certainly fair to require him or her to meet minimal standards of security. You can’t sell alcohol without a permit. You can’t even operate a charity bingo night without one. Gun shows are a legitimate target for some measure of control. We just don’t live in the same world we did prior to the Sandy Hook tragedy.

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