Firearms and Guns and Gangs
Escalating firearms-related violence is fueling public concern and has given rise to demands for further federal action. Since 2013, gang-related homicides in Canada’s largest cities have almost doubled and shootings have now become the most common method of homicide in our country. There were 266 firearm-related homicides in 2017, compared to 134 in 2013, with a decline to 249 in 2018. Montreal and Toronto city councils have called for a ban on handguns.
Gun and gang violence is complex and constantly evolving. Collaboration is required among all levels of government, academics and community groups to address the social determinants of crime (e.g. poor housing, limited access to education and/or jobs, and appropriate interventions for at-risk youth).
The federal approach to combat gun violence has focused on: legislative elements related to regulating legal firearms; program elements targeting the criminal use of firearms and gun violence, and interdicting the entry of guns into the illicit marketplace; and, public consultations on a potential ban of certain types of firearm and other possible measures to address gun crime.
Regarding legal ownership, An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms (Bill C-71) received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019. Measures now in force include: a Criminal Code amendment to clarify that firearms seized upon issuance of a prohibition order shall be forfeited to the Crown (in response to Roggie v. Ontario); and, allowing the Commissioner of Firearms, upon request by the Quebec Minister of Public Safety, to provide the remaining Quebec records of non-restricted firearms to the Government of Quebec.
Additional measures, such as strengthened background checks, tightened restrictions on the transport of restricted and prohibited firearms, business record-keeping of firearms transactions, and revised authority to determine the classification of firearms, would come into force on Order-in-Council over the next couple of years, once administration and systems arrangements are in place.
Regarding programming to combat illegal gun and gang activity, the Initiative to Take Action Against Gun and Gang Violence provides resources to provinces and territories (PTs) to bolster prevention, gang exit and outreach programming; intelligence sharing; and, law enforcement capacity. Agreements have been signed with all PTs except Quebec and Prince Edward Island. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) also received resources to enhance firearms investigations and strengthen border controls to prevent smuggling.
Public consultations were held in 2018 on the question of banning certain types of firearms such as handguns and assault-style weapons, in response to mass shooting events in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and elsewhere. While the consultations revealed that Canadians are strongly polarized on the effectiveness of a gun ban, several other measures emerged, including: tightening regulations on secure storage to deter theft; adding an administrative suspension element to the licencing regime, or other mechanisms for licence holders who may pose a risk of harm to themselves or others due to a mental health issue; strengthening enforcement capacity to trace more crime guns and imposing harsher penalties for gun-related crime; updating and improving the transparency of the classification regime; enhancing collaboration and information-sharing among law enforcement and other stakeholders; and, providing for city-specific restrictions on firearms in urban areas.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is responsible for the Firearms Act and its regulations to determine licence eligibility and regulate the possession and use of firearms, while the Minister of Justice is responsible for the Criminal Code and its regulations, which address firearms classification and offences.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is supported by the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee (CFAC). The Committee provides advice on reforms to Canada’s firearms policies, laws, and regulations. Members are appointed by the Minister for a period of two years, and may be re-appointed. A new Chair, the Honourable Wallace Oppal, was appointed on February 18, 2019, for a term of two years. The tenure of most members will be completed in October 2019. The frequency of meetings is determined by the Minister, with at least one in-person meeting per year.
The RCMP Canadian Firearms Program administers the national program through the issuing of licences, providing safety training and information, maintaining the Firearms Reference Table, and assisting with firearms-related law enforcement investigations and prosecutions. Public Safety works closely with the Canadian Firearms Program to advise on and implement Canada’s firearms policy.
Public Safety is also working to develop a national strategy on gun and gang violence, and is collaborating with stakeholders to improve data collection, sharing and analysis.
A meeting of the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee is tentatively planned for December 2019 or January 2020. [Redacted]
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