Gun control is a hot button issue right now thanks to thousands of kids in the US. On March 24th, 2018, high schoolers, parents, and teachers across America took the trauma of surviving or hearing about school shootings and turned it into righteous anger at the people who govern them. They marched on Washington in numbers that made the Orange Egotist’s inauguration look like a One Direction concert on a school night.

The demands of the marchers were simple ones: stop taking money from people who value guns over lives. Make assault weapons less accessible to those who want to turn their anger on the world around them. Stop ranting about the importance of child safety while doing nothing to ensure it.

They recognize that their government is too well compensated by the gun-obsessed losers in the US and that dramatic action is needed. They want background checks, and licensing, and all sorts of other measures to ensure that dangerous people do not get access to guns.

What they are asking for is what we Canadians consider to be the bare minimum. On March 21, 2018, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale introduced Bill C 71 which would beef up Canada’s existing gun control legislation.

This article is going to give you a crash course on gun control in Canada, specifically with regards to individual rights to gun possession.

Gun control is governed primarily by two laws: The Canadian Firearms Act and the Canadian Criminal Code. They define different kinds of weapons under Canadian law and set out rules regarding which weapons are legal in Canada and under what circumstances.

The Canadian Criminal Code defines a weapon as anything used, designed to be used, or intended for use in causing the death or injury to any person, or for the purpose of intimidating them. This includes firearms and anything used, designed to be used, or intended to be used to bind or tie someone up against their will.

That said, not all weapons in Canada require a license.

Only firearms, prohibited firearms, restricted firearms and weapons, and prohibited devices require a license under Canadian law.

A prohibited firearm is any handgun with a barrel equal to or less than 105mm in length and is designed to discharge a 25 or 32 caliber bullet. Prohibited firearms also include sawed off shotguns and automatic weapons.

Prohibited weapons include switchblades or any other knife with a blade that can open via hand pressure to a button or other mechanism, as well as any other weapon considered prohibited but which is not a firearm.

A prohibited device includes any part of or accessory to a weapon that is considered prohibited. It also includes handgun barrels equal to or less 105mm in length, with an exception allowed for competitive sport shooting weapons required by the rules of the International Shooting Union. Anything used to silence, muffle, or stop the report of a firearm is also considered a prohibited device.

A restricted firearm includes any handgun not considered a prohibited firearm and has a barrel less than 470 mm in length. It also has to be capable of discharging ammunition in a semi automatic way.

Restricted weapons are any weapon considered as such that is not a firearm. Crossbows generally fall into this category (apologies to any medieval weapon enthusiasts).

In order to have access to any such weapons, you have to apply for a licence as per the Federal Firearms Act. You are considered ineligible for a licence if in the interests of the safety it is best you not possess a weapon or ammunition.

It is generally up the chief firearms officer named by the Federal Public Safety Minister or a provincial court judge to decide eligibility. In determining applications for licenses, they generally look at the following criteria and whether or not these apply over the last five years prior to the application:

  • Have you ever been convicted of or received a discharge for offenses in which violence against a person was attempted, used, or threatened?
  • Have you ever been convicted of or received a discharge for firearms or other weapons offenses?
  • Have you ever been convicted of criminal harassment?
  • Have you ever been convicted of certain drug related offenses?
  • Have you ever been treated at a hospital, mental health institute, or psychiatric clinic for a mental illness that was associated with threatened or attempted violence (this fact is looked at regardless of whether or not an applicant was confined at the aforementioned treatment facilities)?
  • Is there is a court mandated prohibition order barring you from possession a weapon?

Once these criteria are assessed, a person must successfully undergo the “Canadian Firearms Safety Course” for the class of weapon for they want a license for and pass the corresponding exam. They also must fill out forms and provide character references.

The more dangerous the weapon for which a license is being requested, the more likely the references will be checked. Firearms themselves have to be registered with the Firearms Registrar.

It must be noted that the Firearms Act does have exceptions including those rights guaranteed as per existing aboriginal or treaty rights.

Bill C 71 proposes a few changes to the Canadian Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.

The new law proposes to do away with the five-year limit on criteria for licenses set out in the Firearms Act. It also requires that any firearms seized by or surrendered to peace officers due to a prohibition order be automatically forfeited to the Crown unless the order specifies otherwise. The remaining rules pertain primarily to grandfather clauses written into the Firearms Act in order to protect those legally possessing firearms at the time the law was put into force.

If the law is passed, C 71 will come into force in the summer of 2018. The law is likely to pass because unlike the leaders to the south, Canadians care about protecting each other from gun violence.

* Featured image by Steve Rainwater via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday was the 26th anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre in which 25 year old Mark Lépine shot 28 people, killing 14 women, before subsequently committing suicide. Also known as the Montreal Massacre, it spurred the gun control movement in Canada, which culminated in the enactment of the Firearms Act in 1995.

The Firearms Act works with the Criminal Code to regulate gun offenses in Canada. Much stricter at the time of its enactment, it established a national gun registry which was subsequently abolished in April 2012 under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The abolition of the gun registry occurred amid massive protests from the survivors of Polytechnique and their families. In response, Quebec promised to establish its own gun registry and on December 3, 2015, it presented Bill 64 to the National Assembly.

Bill 64, also known as the Firearms Registration Act, would require that ALL guns be registered in Quebec. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that public authorities know where all firearms are in the province are at all times, thus helping peace officers in their investigations and interventions.

Public Security Minister Pierre Moreau cited the example of domestic violence; such a registry would allow police to know right away if there’s the risk of a gun being involved and where to find it. The bill requires that gun owners apply for registration immediately after taking possession of the weapon, but allows for a 45 day delay for a gun owner who has just moved to Quebec.

Anyone owning a gun in Quebec at the time the bill is enacted would have a year to register it. In the 90 days following the gun’s registration, the registration number has to be clearly and permanently indicated on it in a manner set out by the government.

Anyone who fails to register their gun within the designated time and doesn’t mark the registration number on it would be facing a fine ranging between $500 and $5000 for an individual person and up to $15000 for anyone else, the latter presumably including businesses that identify as legal persons and other organizations. The same fines would be imposed on anyone who makes it difficult for peace officers to verify the registration of a firearm by lying, refusing to provide information or documents, or by concealing or destroying them.

The law would also require that gun owners provide the registration number upon request by a peace officer. Anyone failing to do so is looking at a fine of between one and three hundred bucks.

Image Gun Store via Flickr Creative Commons
Image Gun Store via Flickr Creative Commons

The new law would also create rules for businesses that sell, rent, display, restore, maintain and alter guns. Bill 64 would make firearms businesses in Quebec establish and keep an updated table to monitor all operations relating to its firearms, which must be sent to the Public Security Minister upon request. Failure to do so would result in a fine.

Last but not least, the law gives the police permission to confiscate firearms if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a gun isn’t registered under the new law. If no proceedings are instituted against the owner in the 90 days since its seizure or the owner has since complied with the Firearms Act or if the peace officer thinks no offense has been committed, the gun has to be returned to its owner.

The new law is designed to fill the voids created by Stephen Harper when his government modified the Firearms Act in order to abolish Canada’s National Gun Registry. Unlike the Criminal Code and current Firearms Act, the new gun registry would apply to ALL guns.

Under current federal legislation only guns classified as “restricted” or “prohibited” must be registered with the federal government. All other firearms do not.

Restricted firearms are defined by the Criminal Code as a gun not considered to be prohibited that has a barrel less than 470 mm in length and “is capable of discharging centre-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner.” Guns that are designed or adapted to be fired when reduced to a length of less than 660 mm by folding or telescoping are also considered restricted firearms.

Prohibited firearms are handguns not considered restricted that have a barrel of less than 105 mm in length or designed to shoot a 25 or 32 caliber bullet. Guns used for international sports contests don’t count as prohibited firearms but sawed off shotguns and automatic weapons do.

Canadians are allowed to possess restricted and prohibited firearms provided they have a license and a registration certificate for it. Failure to have a license and registration certificate for these guns makes you guilty of a possession offense which could result in up to five years in prison.

The new law proposed by Couillard’s government was favorably received on the day of its presentation to the National Assembly. Though Quebec MNAs are reserving the full extent of their comments for later, they seem to be in agreement on the spirit of the law and recognize the importance of creating a registry for firearms in Quebec. A survivor of Polytechnique is hailing the proposed law as good news.

To the stereotypical gun toting American, Canadian gun control laws probably look like a crazy breach of individual freedoms. Fortunately for us, there is no right to bear arms entrenched in our constitution. We as a country recognize the horror that unrestricted access to guns causes and mourn its victims every December 6th.

* Featured image by kcdsTM, Creative Commons

This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished by permission of the author

Minorities in North America have struggled to have their voices heard since Europeans first landed here. No matter what color you are, what language you speak or what faith you subscribe to, if you aren’t a white English Christian, chances are your collective voice has fallen on deaf ears in the past, even the present.

It’s not a surprise really, we all live in a democratic society where majority rules. Back in the day, as it pertains to social issues, the only way minorities could have their voices heard was to convince part of the majority to see things their way. That’s how Americans ended slavery, passed the civil rights act and so on.

In the information age this simple formula still holds true for the most part. Gay rights is a good modern example, many straight people have taken up the fight with the LGBT community and the movement has advanced quickly. People should always have the right to be heard, especially when it comes to discrimination.

When it comes to social/political groups however, there is an unacceptable amount of people out there speaking for the minority who not only have a voice, but are speaking louder than a huge majority of us. This shouldn’t be acceptable in a democratic society.

One-million-momLook at One Million Moms. They are a conservative group created by the American Family Association in order to protest what they consider immorality in our entertainment. You may remember them for their crusade against JC Penny for hiring lesbian Ellen DeGeneres as their commercial spokesperson.

Well, One Million Moms made the national news again, this time for needlessly going after Geico for promoting bestiality. For some reason, when this group speaks they get heard and not just by the media. One Million Moms do not have a million members. They have about 5000 likes on Facebook and 2200 followers on Twitter. They are best described as an army of imaginary Michelle Bachmann clones. Either way, out of the tens of millions of mothers out there, why are people listening to just a few thousand?

How about the NRA? The National Rifle Association has about four or five million members in a country with over three hundred million people. Fifty million American households keep firearms and yet only 10% of them subscribe to the NRA. Why are politicians so afraid of these guys?

Wayne Lapierre is allowed on every single network to speak his piece while Washington lawmakers go to bat for him at every turn. The NRA speaks so loud that even a bill for universal background checks is likely to fail, even though 90% of Americans support it, including gun owners.

Let’s not forget the mother of all minority groups; the 1%. This tiny minority of wealthy Americans run the entire country, mostly through their corporations. They create our laws with the help of organizations such as ALEC. They control our media, the internet and our politicians who are just as afraid of them as the NRA.

There are other groups in the minority, political or otherwise, that deserve mention such as the Tea Party, The Westboro Baptist Church and the Catholic League. Like I said, everyone who has an opinion deserves a voice, but when the voices of the few are spoken decibels louder than the many, it exposes a fundamental flaw in our democracy.

You might be wondering why I started this article off speaking about minorities in terms of race. Well, what do all these aforementioned minority groups have in common? They are made up in large part by wealthy white Christians; the country’s largest, yet increasingly decaying demographic. Let’s not pretend that being white no longer grants you the greater voice regardless of your views.

Another reason many of these groups get heard louder is simple; the media covers them nonstop. The mainstream media’s transition from actual news to sensationalist infotainment has given greater voices to the Fred Phelps, the Wayne Lapierres and the Tea Baggers of the world. Don’t forget that the media itself is owned by the 1%, the wealthy minority.

In order to quieten these groups who don’t speak for most of us, we must all start to speak ourselves. When One Million Moms try to censor something, we must come to their target’s defense. When our politicians are too cowardly to even bring a bill we all support to a vote, we need to speak up louder.

There is no legitimate reason why we should allow minority rule to carry on as it has, there’s more of us than there are of them.

Last Friday, America woke up to the news of another mass shooting in Colorado. A man dressed in black body armour, helmet and gas mask open fired in a packed movie theatre in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

The perpetrator lobbed smoke canisters into the crowd before open firing with an AR-15 assault rifle with a high-capacity drum clip, a twelve-gauge shot gun and two pistols. The end result was 12 dead and a staggering 58 wounded with 9 still in critical condition.

This sort of scene is all too familiar in a country with 250 million licensed firearms, an immensely powerful gun lobby (National Rifle Association) and a two hundred and twenty-one year old amendment to the constitution that allows citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

Normally in the wake of this kind of tragedy, the media re-opens the gun control debate. This time around the talk has been less about actual gun control and more about politicians’ refusal to discus the topic, especially the presidential candidates . Not so long ago, Barack Obama was a big advocate of gun control and Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts passed a ban on assault weapons (Romney has since flip-flopped of course). Now in the middle of an election year they both offered their sympathies to the victims without addressing the root cause of the massacre or even mentioning the word “gun.”

The AR-15

Over the weekend I’ve heard some of the same old weak talking points coming out of the mouths of Republicans. “If only every one in the theatre was armed, this type of tragedy could have been avoided.” In reality, everyone in the theatre would have needed body armour and gas masks to even have a chance. What do you think would have happened in a packed room full of smoke with armed and scared citizens?

Republicans also prefer to converse about punishment rather than prevention and are not able to understand that people who engage in this type of slaughter don’t care about the repercussions. Many, in fact, take their own lives after their “mission” is complete. No amount of sentencing or executions are going to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring in the future.

While conservatives are getting out there and defending the second amendment, Democrats are remaining disturbingly quiet. Republicans have long been the party of the NRA (National Rifle Association) and receive 88% of the NRA’s political donations; it’s no surprise then to see the GOP speaking on their behalf.

Democrats on the other hand are terrified of the gun lobby group and the political consequences that can occur from standing up to them. Both parties have effectively been muted from speaking out in favour of tougher gun laws.

The Democrat’s fear of introducing gun control laws is not completely unfounded. Back in 1994, Congress approved a 10-year ban on 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A few months later Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years, many Democrats blame the loss on the assault weapons ban. George W. Bush allowed the assault weapons ban to expire in 2004 with little opposition.

Politics aside, public support of stricter gun control laws in the United States has been in decline over the last twenty years. According to Gallup back in 1990, 78% of those polled believed gun laws should be stricter. That number decreased to 54% in 2004 and down to 43% last year. These numbers might explain why gun control is such a political hot potato, not even the public supports it.

I’m completely dumbfounded by the double standard certain Americans have on this  issue. The United States as a country does everything in their power to keep potential foreign terrorists from obtaining weapons that can harm their citizens. On the other hand they do absolutely nothing when it comes to keeping guns away from potential domestic terrorists; in a sense, Republicans and the NRA proudly encourage the opposite.

Average Americans are so brainwashed and steadfast in their philosophy on liberty and freedom that they don’t see the social cost of their beliefs (that can be said about more than just gun control). Around 10 000 people are killed each year with guns and around a 100 000 are wounded, but the amount of human suffering is secondary to the freedom to buy an AR-15 assault rifle with an extended magazine.

Sadly, this latest incident is destined to become just another story the media can exploit for a few days before moving on to less dramatic events. Without more politicians (like Mayor Bloomberg) trying to alter the national dialog on this topic, no change will come.

The American people and their law makers will continue to sit by deaf and dumb to the real tragedy. The real tragedy being that nothing positive will come out of those who lost their lives in that theatre and it will happen again… and again.

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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)

By now everyone has heard of the assassination attempt of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and subsequent rampage of Jared Loughner that left six people dead and fourteen others wounded. The question everyone seems to be asking in the few days since is why? Was it the rhetoric of a few right-wing politicians like Sarah Palin, the fear mongering words of pundits like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, the Second Amendment and the lack of gun control or does the responsibility fall squarely on an unstable extremist man with a gun?

The answer of course would be all of the above. With the atmosphere of hate in the United States since the election of Barack Obama, anyone who didn’t see an event such as this happening must be blind or in a coma. I would go further and wager that this won’t be the last time that politically motivated acts of violence takes place. Has anyone noticed that this type of politically induced brutality always occurs when a democrat is sitting in the White House?

In the recent past we’ve seen pundits on Fox News spewing hate & violence filled rhetoric at anyone who isn’t a Christian conservative. Glenn Beck, for instance, chatted about killing filmmaker Michael Moore with his bare hands and wished out loud that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio) would burn to death. In a skit in 2009, Beck portrayed himself poisoning former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Bill O’Reilly not to be outdone has openly called for the assassination of certain figures and has “joked” about decapitating a Washington Post columnist.

Over the last several years we’ve also seen huge growth in armed American militias and extremist wings of the tea party. While some might say Sarah Palin doesn’t fit in with either of these movements, her words and actions sometimes say different. Palin posted a map with 20 cross-hairs over rival democrats including Gabrielle Giffords and urged her followers to “reload” & “aim” for Democrats.

Sarah Palin's target map

Giffords’ 2010 Congressional opponent Jesse Kelly took a cue from Palin and held a June 12th gun event. The campaign event website had a photo of Kelly in military garb holding his weapon. It included the headline: “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” How could anyone possibly get the wrong idea…?

I still believe that gun control, or the lack thereof is the root cause of violence in the United States regardless of the garbage coming out of people’s mouths. If a gun and ammunition hadn’t been so readily available to Jared Loughner, he wouldn’t have been able to shoot twenty people without reloading. That’s the bottom line. A majority of Americans however, or at least the vocal majority, praise the United States open gun laws as if the Second Amendment was written on the same stones that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.

Estimates say that a hundred thousand Americans are shot every year with guns, 10% – 15% of those shot result in death (the others just get a nice medical bill!). I don’t expect any of these numbers to decrease any more than I believe something good is going to come out of this bloody massacre. If you try to change or repeal the Second Amendment, the result will be the same as when you try to take a gun away from someone who’s holding one. You’ll get shot.

In the weeks and months to come, Jared Loughner will no doubt receive more press coverage then the pundits, politicians, gun control lobbyists and the racist state he lives in, but he is just one man. The other issues are far more important and affect everyone. Instead we’ll hear about his mental health, his upbringing and solitude. We’ll even hear Rush Limbaugh defend Palin and Beck’s violent language, but blame the fact he listened to heavy metal (actually he already has). In the end I fear that Saturday, January 8th 2011 will be remembered as just another day in the good ole US of A.