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By Chris Marchand
Kenora MP and federal natural resources minister Greg Rickford says he’s glad to see the Harper Government’s Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act pass third reading and progress to the Senate this week.
The re-tooled firearms legislation was introduced following the demise of the federal long-gun registry, an attempt, says the Conservative Government, to ‘cut red tape for law-abiding firearms owners and enshrine safe and sensible firearms policies in law’.
Rickford says he knows the issue is one of which the residents of the Kenora Riding are passionate.
“I’m a gun enthusiast myself,” said Rickford. “As recently as Saturday I heard a lot of guys talking about this down at the gun club. It’s big news. It’s something that has been brought up repeatedly by a critical mass of constituents who are hunters or sport shooting enthusiasts. I’m obviously very pleased when we can deliver on a piece of legislation that addresses some long-standing concerns.”
Among the amendments to the Act include: a six-month grace period at the end of the five-year licensing period to stop people from immediately becoming criminalized for paperwork delays around license renewals; a streamlining of the licensing system by eliminating the Possession Only License (POL) and converting all existing POLS to Possession and Acquisition Licenses (PALs); making classroom participating in firearms safety training mandatory for first time license applicants; amending the Criminal Code to strengthen provisions relating to orders prohibiting the possession of firearms where a person is convicted of an offence involving domestic violence; and cutting paperwork around Authorizations to Transport by making them a condition of a license for certain routine and lawful activities.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau says his party’s basis for not supporting Bill C-42 could be found in the amendments around transportation of firearms. While he says his party may agree with the streamlining of paperwork, training requirements and barriers to gun ownership for those convicted of domestic violence, the lifting of restrictions on transportation does not demonstrate due care for public safety.
“First, it eliminates the need for owners of prohibited and restricted firearms to have a transportation license to carry those guns in their vehicles. This means they could freely transport handguns or automatic weapons anywhere within their province, whether to a grocery store or a soccer field,” said Trudeau in a Liberal Party press release last November.
While Trudeau has abandoned the divisive issue of reinstating a long gun registry if elected, the NDP leader Tom Mulcair has stated that his party would reinstate tools to help police track the weapons.
It’s an advantageous position for Rickford as election rhetoric begins in earnest.
“I’m really disappointed, but not surprised that opposition MPs from across Northern Ontario dismiss this Common Sense Firearms Act out of hand,” said Rickford. “Their leaders have gone out of their way to define their positions on the long gun registry. This issue matters to Northwestern Ontario given our traditions and passion for the outdoors.”