Election 2015: Where They Stand

The federal election in Canada has just ten days to go, and all of the major federal parties have now released their full election platforms.

But where do they stand on firearms and firearms safety? We took a look at their platforms in order to provide you with a summary for each.

Conservatives

The Conservative track record on firearms legislation over their past nine years in government is voluminous. Few other governments have enacted so many changes to firearms laws as they have done.

The most recent, Bill C-42, made most authorizations to transport restricted and prohibited firearms an automatic condition on a Possession and Acquisition Licence, and curtailed some discretionary powers of the provincial Chief Firearms Officers, much to the chagrin of the so-called “gun control” lobby.

Hunters and firearms owner groups generally favour the changes, with some offering criticism that the changes don’t go far enough to undo the major changes under the Liberals in the 1990s.

The Conservatives also ended the registration of non-restricted firearms, the so-called “long gun registry”, and successfully fought off a challenge to keep that data by the province of Quebec.  They also made taking the Canadian Firearms Safety Course a mandatory requirement in order to obtain a licence.

For their next mandate, they promise “life means life” and more support for cracking down on criminal gangs, mandatory minimum sentences for handgun crimes, but no further changes to gun laws as they would apply to law-abiding gun owners.

Green Party

Guns and gun ownership does not feature in the Green Party election platform at all.  However, the party policy generally favours increasing the requirements to obtain a licence, increasing the controls on storage and transportation, and cracking down on cross-border illegal handgun smuggling.  These measures supplement their existing policy goal of “directing gun control efforts toward the gradual phase-out of handguns.”

This is bad news for the owners of the estimated 726,000 restricted and 185,000 prohibited firearms that are registered to Canadian gun owners, many of which would include handguns. They could eventually have to turn in their handguns presumably for destruction under a Green Party government.

Liberals

The Liberals were coy about adopting a position on changes to gun laws during the early stages of the election, but were the first of the three big parties to put out their platform and are now occupying a position as a “gun grabber” party with firearms owner groups.  They had previously said they were not interested in bringing back the registration of long-guns, introduced by a previous Liberal government under Jean Chretien. But it is now clear they favour a ban on many types of firearms instead.

They plan to repeal Bill C-42, except for the change which made prohibitions mandatory for those convicted in domestic violence cases. This includes undoing the “automatic” ATTs for restricted and prohibited firearms.  They will also implement stricter background checks for those purchasing restricted firearms, a requirement to keep records of firearms inventory and any firearms sales and a compulsion to show these records to police investigating gun trafficking offences, implement the UN marking regulations requiring all guns imported or made in Canada to be marked “CA” and the year of make/import – a measure that had been deferred under the Conservatives, and give extra funding to Canada Border Services Agency and police to combat firearms trafficking.

Since repealing C-42 is a major part of their platform, the gun lobby sees this as a “gun grab” because it removes the ability of the government to reclassify firearms into the “non-restricted” class by order-in-council, a power the government has always had when it came to classifying restricted and prohibited firearms. This effectively puts the RCMP back in charge of firearms classification.  Furthermore, by changing the composition of the Firearms Advisory Committee, one of their other election promises, the Liberals plan to have public health and representatives from women’s groups join law enforcement officers on that panel, which advises the government on what regulatory changes to make, including to firearms classification.

NDP

The NDP position on gun laws is vague and does not feature heavily in their platform issued today.  They plan to crack down on gangs and guns by permanently funding 2,500 new “front-line” police officers in order to further protect communities, as well as making the Canada Border Services Agency more efficient and secure for travellers.

Some media outlets, in reviewing NDP policies, have concluded that not only do they plan to reintroduce the long-gun registry, they will add a ban on handguns and certain other firearms.  The NDP have also said during the campaigning that they believe the provinces should have more control over whether to register long-guns or have communities ban firearms.