On Thursday (January 24, 2019), Executive Committee Member Donald Sohm and club member Larry Wilkins engaged Member of Parliament Hon. Ron McKinnon and Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair via a 40 minute teleconference call to discuss the club members’ concerns about the Government’s current consultation and examination of a ban on handguns and ‘assault weapons’.
Minister Blair stressed that his mandate from the Prime Minister was to examine all the options to reduce firearms-related violence while “respecting the rights of firearms owners”. The Minister’s primary concern regarding lawful firearms owners revolved around the issue of safe storage, believing the prevention of firearms theft is a key method of deterring and preventing violent crime. The Minister referred to the “widespread theft and break-in of homes and sporting goods stores (that sell guns)” across the country as being an important source of illegally-obtained weapons.
Questions were made on the accuracy of statements on how widespread break-ins were in supplying illegal handguns, with concerns raised that broad statements repeated by the media without accurate statistics would paint an inaccurate picture in the general public. We told the Minister that the Club did not support this idea of “central storage”, as it would make clubs like ours a magnet for criminals that wanted to steal guns and would clearly be onerous for even large clubs such as ours. Minister Blair stated that he had travelled to different ranges/clubs across the country and some were clearly not suitable facilities to store weapons, e.g. plywood range shacks. However, he did say that he believed it may be possible to mandate the central storage of weapons “in some jurisdictions”. Note: PCDHFC does NOT store firearms.
More discussion revolved around the problems caused by inaccurate and/or sensational reporting of gun crimes by the media some of which seemed to find their way into the Government’s own statements. We also brought up the information gained from Dennis Young’s access to information, which showed that the records on crimes committed with domestically sourced guns could be as lower then 10%, and that the data available was too poor for any conclusive conclusions.
We discussed the link between mental illness and gun violence, pointing various recent high profile incidents of violence linked to the perpetrator’s state of mind. We pointed out that the Government’s Discussion Paper indicated there was virtually no connection. Minister Blair acknowledged the validity of our concern and said that, in fact, this is an area the Government is looking into. In particular, he told us the Government is looking at introducing legislation that would give it the right to suspend or revoke someone’s licence for mental health reasons so they cannot go out to a store the day after their weapons were seized by police (as the law currently permits) and buy new ones.
We discussed the need to improve resources available to the CFO’s office to improve service to firearm owners, as well as to better improve its ability to enforce the laws already on the books. We also stressed the importance of shifting focus towards gangs and providing better funding and services geared towards preventing young people from turning to the gang lifestyle. Minister Blair shared our concerns and spoke to us about the Government’s recent initiatives in this area across Canada.
The Port Coquitlam & District Hunting and Fishing Club appreciated Minister Bill Blair for setting aside time to listen to our concerns, and to MP Ron McKinnon for organizing the meeting. Given the importance of this issue we hope to be invited back to the table at some point for a longer and more in-depth discussion of the issues surrounding gun violence than the teleconference afforded all of us.