By Spencer Van Dyk
OTTAWA (CTV Network) — Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told a House of Commons committee Tuesday that Bill C-21, the proposed legislation to further restrict access to handguns in Canada, is critical to ending gun violence.
In his testimony before the Public Safety Committee, Mendicino was specifically questioned several times about whether the firearm buyback portion of the bill is the most effective way of reducing the currently rising instances of gun violence.
If passed, Bill C-21 would introduce a national handgun “freeze” on sales, purchases or transfers of handguns, introduce “red flag” laws, increase maximum penalties for some firearm-related offences, and implement a buyback program of the more than 1,500 “assault-style” firearms that were banned in the country in 2020.
“It is clear wherever you sit, regardless of the side of the aisle, or partisan stripe, that the status quo won’t do,” Mendicino told the committee. “And every time I meet with someone who has lost a loved one or who has been harmed by violence … we owe it to them to do more.”
Opponents of the bill say the buyback program is too costly, and that it punishes law-abiding gun owners, as opposed to effectively reducing gun violence by preventing illegal guns being smuggled over the border.
Conservative MP and public safety critic Raquel Dancho questioned Mendicino extensively on the cost of the program, saying RCMP officers are already stretched thin in many regions of the country.
She argued the buyback would take money away from community protection and border enforcement.
“Ensuring that police services who operate within provincial boundaries have the resources necessary to enforce laws to keep our community safe is not mutually exclusive to buying back assault-style rifles, and the reason is simple: those guns were designed with one purpose in mind and that is to kill,” Mendicino said.
“I think it is reckless and they’ll further endanger our communities,” Dancho told the minister, to which Mendicino replied he “respectfully disagree(s).”
Officials in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have said they will not support the federal government’s buyback program, and will not divert law enforcement officials to the task, a stance Mendicino called “reckless” in an interview on CTV’s Question Period last week.
Mendicino told the committee he has no “Plan B” if the Prairies refuse to support the program, and that he’s currently focused on “Plan A.”
“In the view of this government, advancing a fair buyback program that will compensate law abiding gun owners for the assault-style rifles that they originally purchased lawfully is consistent with keeping our community safe, and we will always be collaborative with our provincial and territorial partners,” Mendicino said.
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