Bill Blair on the Firing Line: The Canada Letter


Federal elections aren’t more likely to be held till subsequent 12 months however an enormous subject is already shaping up — a doable ban on handguns and assault weapons.

This week, while speaking at a House of Commons committee meeting, Mr. Blair gave himself until the end of the year to hold meetings with the public, law enforcement agencies, Indigenous groups and other levels of government. If an event last weekend in Toronto is any indication, those meetings may be lively.

Mr. Blair was repeatedly booed by an often unruly crowd, particularly when he tried to argue that legally purchased handguns that were stolen or otherwise made their way into the black market are playing a growing role in crimes.

A previous Liberal government’s introduction of a registry for shotguns and rifles, or long guns, revealed that while Canada may not have the same sort of gun culture as the United States, gun control is no less politically volatile here. The registry was repealed by a Conservative government. Although Mr. Blair has been instructed only “to lead an examination” of a full ban on handguns and assault weapons, the Conservative opposition is already acting as if the government had announced such a plan.

At a recent hearing of the standing parliamentary committee on public safety, Glen Motz, a Conservative member of Parliament from Medicine Hat, Alberta, called the idea of a ban “a charade” and that was just for starters.

“What evidence, beyond political theater, do you have that this will actually help?” he asked Mr. Blair. “What evidence do you actually need to know that the handgun ban is actually a bad idea, it’s all smoke and politics?”

While many handgun owners are passionate about shooting and their weapons, they are comparatively few in number.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 15 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

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