PHOTOS: Retired Quebec Liberal Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette (, whose Senate bill would make a sensible model for government gun-control legislation. Below: Conservative British Columbia MP Bob Zimmer, an advocate of lifting all Canadian restrictions from weapons like the one used in the Orlando massacre a week ago (Wikipedia).

It is impossible not to be appalled by the execrable taste of the National Firearms Association’s decision to issue a press release less than 24 hours after last Sunday’s horrific mass shooting in Orlando claiming that the tragedy “was not the fault of a particular firearm or explosive.”

The NFA is an Edmonton-based organization set up, in its own words, to protect “the rights of responsible gun owners,” including the adoption of “fair and practical firearm and property rights legislation.” Its Wikipedia page includes a statement that one of its goals is “to protect the right to … self defence.” It would be fair to say the NFA models itself on the notorious U.S. National Rifle Association.

ZimmerMPThere is a time and place to debate the preposterous assertion of those who support wide-open, U.S.-style access to firearms that, as it is frequently phrased, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The NFA, by the sound of its statement on Monday, June 13, thought that the first few hours after the largest mass shooting in our next-door neighbour’s nightmarish history of murderous gun violence was the right time to make such a point.

Mind you, this is not the first time the NFA has been embroiled in this sort of controversy. It angered Canadians in June 2014 when it issued a similar press release claiming restrictions on firearms are pointless only a day after three RCMP officers had been murdered in New Brunswick by a young man with a military-style rifle.

Published while the police manhunt for Justin Bourque continued, the June 5, 2014, NFA press release said the organization “deplores the terrible actions by a clearly deranged individual,” called for “a health care system which could be better enabled to diagnose and treat conditions that put people’s lives at risk,” and claimed “incidents like these demonstrate the validity of the mounting evidence that none of Canada’s firearms control efforts over the past 50 years have had any effect on controlling violence, or otherwise stopping bad people from carrying out their evil deeds.”

As Canadian author A.J. Somerset observed in his useful Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun, published by Biblioasis of Windsor, Ont., “if an award were available for the most tasteless press release of the year, the NFA would win it.” Indeed, repeatedly!

“Incidents like these demonstrate no such thing,” Mr. Somerset accurately said of the NFA’s claim. And while no one should dispute the need for better mental health care in Canada, as Mr. Somerset pointed out, “the NFA made a wild assumption in announcing that a better mental health system would have caught Justin Bourque before he did any harm.” In fact, “a court-ordered psychiatric assessment would in fact later conclude that he was entirely sane.” (Emphasis added.)

“The NFA’s press release was not simply dumb as a wet, dead stump,” Mr. Somerset wrote. “It was utterly oblivious to Justin Bourque’s self-evident motives.”

“Bourque was no crazed madman acting out some agenda only he could comprehend.” He was, the author argued, a creature of an American-style gun culture brought to Canada by groups like the NFA that promote gun ownership as a counter to police and government power.

This is especially so among several groups associated with the Canadian gun lobby if the governments in question happen to hold liberal positions on any number of unrelated issues. Canadian “gun rights advocates” tend to be allied with the political parties of the further right, like the Conservative Party of Canada and the Wildrose Party here in Alberta. Both those parties work with the gun lobby to fashion divisive wedge issues in return for advocating opening up our country to the deadly conditions that prevail in the United States.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that the week before the tragedy in Florida, a Conservative MP in Ottawa was supporting a petition for a military-style weapon similar to the firearm used in the Orlando nightclub massacre to be reclassified as a hunting weapon.

“The AR-15, when handled safely, is a completely innocuous firearm,” Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer said. “We support its reclassification back to non-restricted.”

It is a waste of time to attempt to engage in normal discourse with people like those in the NFA, or for that matter in the Conservative and Wildrose parties, on this topic.

All we can do as citizens of Canada is to continue to press our legislators to pass sane restrictions on the ownership of firearms, which accumulating evidence continues to suggest will reduce the number of gun deaths. Obviously, these should include restrictions on firearms that are designed specifically to efficiently kill human beings without genuine “sporting” applications. Mr. Zimmer’s protestations notwithstanding, the AR-15 and the Sig Sauer MCX used in the Orlando massacre are examples.

Since regulation of firearms and the Criminal Code are federal responsibilities in Canada, this requires pressure on the federal government. A good starting point for such an effort would be to urge the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use Bill S-223 as a model for government legislation to appropriately categorize and control firearms.

S-223 is a private bill that originated in the Senate in March thanks to Quebec Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, who has since retired. Because S-223 was introduced by a member who is no longer a Senator, and since the chamber has little democratic legitimacy and moreover is packed with appointed Conservative members determined to blockade the democratically elected government of the land, the bill probably doesn’t have much future in its present form.

Still, it is a well-researched and carefully drafted piece of legislation, and should be reintroduced by the government in the House of Commons.

We can persuade the government of Prime Minister Trudeau to do this, or something like it, because Canadians who support sensible restrictions on firearms vastly outnumber Canadian gun lobby, no matter how noisy it is.

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  1. The Canadian laws have been shown to work well. Our gun crime rates are by multiples lower than the US. If it ain’t broke, why restrict the rights of the law abiding majority?

    You are engaging in identity politics on this issue, and it is way too important for that.

    1. Never mind that Canadian gun owners are nothing like a majority. To readers who do not pay attention to the whiny world of gun advocacy, accusing someone calling for modest and sensible regulation of firearms of engaging in “identity politics” must seem bizarre. But this is the rhetorical gold standard of modern gun culture, a virus that unfortunately has crossed the U.S.-Canada border. A typical recent example begins: “This isn’t a gun control debate. This is a Kulturekampf.” This particular screed quickly degenerates into, well, identity politics, attacking Muslims, blacks and liberals along the way to claiming the gun-safety debate isn’t about guns and safety, it’s about how Lefties are always being mean to poor old white guys with Rambo fantasies. What a load!

      1. Also in this week’s NFA press release, “The NFA joins others in expressing condolences to the victims, their friends and families.”

        Sorry, NFA, you come up short in the teary world of post tragedy blather. US Senators and Congresspersons on the take from the NRA always include “thoughts and prayers.” No thoughts? No prayers from the NFA? Obviously they’re stuck in the minor leagues when declaring grief after gun nut rampages.

    2. Have any Canadians been shot by guns obtained through loopholes or loose areas in current gun laws?
      If the answer is yes, then “it is broke”.

      And, if Canadian laws, which we all appreciate are more restrictive than those in the US, are working, then your own argument logically suggests restricting gun ownership even more to reduce crime rates yet another multiple.

      Finally, identity politics arose in reference to human rights issues. Ones right to life supersedes ones ‘desire’ to own a killing machine.

    3. If you want to bring up identity politics, it gives one the opportunity to say something that, while nobody wants to admit (particularly in the U.S.), still needs to be said:

      When the gun lobby talks about things like open carry and other aspects of lax gun control law, what they are really talking about is easy access to guns for white people. They don’t want minorities with easy access to guns; indeed, a black male openly carrying a gun, even if completely legal to do so, is likely to be shot by police, without question.

  2. Hunting with an AR-15 makes a lot of sense. If you pump a duck full of enough bullets you don’t have to worry about cleaning it, or be stuck eating some gamey meat!

  3. The NFA’s primary goal behind having short barrelled rifles capable of using large capacity magazines removed from the restricted firearms registry is to insure that they can no longer be tracked. Thankfully the federal government has seen through this ruse.

    More importantly, cogent argument can be made that all weapons capable of being fired semi-automatically should be prohibited and the weapons destroyed. That won’t happen but it should.

    More realistically, all magazines with a capacity of more than four rounds or capable of being modified or unmodified to hold more than four rounds should be immediately prohibited and destroyed for all types of firearms.

    Much has been made of the fact that the rifle used in Orlando was an assault type rifle. That characterization, while true, does not identify the primary issue to be addressed. The reality is that the shooter identified the most efficient means of killing the largest number of people – a centre fire rifle capable of semi-automatic fire combined with multiple large capacity magazines. The Australians understand the deadly nature of this configuration and banned semi-automatic firearms years ago. Canada should follow suit.

    Much thanks to the NFA for bringing this issue to the fore once again in a timely manner.

  4. During each election, and the West has elected their share, some backwoods constituency will elect a lowest common denominator to sit among the commons. They sleep, they runoff at the mouth, they embarrass, and they are typically Tories. They remind us of how flaws sometimes weaken our system. When these shallow people strive for some form of recognition, it is not surprising that they should have to reach for a gun. Ignore this idiot.

  5. I have never understood the need for anyone to own a gun and it certainly should not be a right to own one. Hunters should be able to have firearms suitable for hunting – which would mean rifles. Guns used by law enforcement should be the property of the police, and anyone wishing to do target shooting, should be able to borrow the weapon from the licensed facility that offers target shooting. It is not the mentally unstable person or the supposed terrorist carrying a gun that frightens me, but the Rob Zimmers and other idiots in the NFA whose heads are firmly in the sand in light of the terrible gun violence. If these folks are so determined to carry a gun, they should move to the States or join law enforcement – but wait – they probably can’t pass the mental stability test.

  6. After looking at the list of corporate members of the NFA I have to say the Inuvik Centennial Library kind of jumps out.

  7. A piece of advice about countering pro-gun messages: gun proponents will often use misleading logic when arguing against gun control by saying that even Canada’s relatively strict gun control couldn’t prevent Justin Bourque. The proper way to address this type of logic is to point out that stricter gun controls are never meant to completely rid the world of gun violence, but rather to severely reduce the chances that it will ever happen. If, on the other hand, you try and follow them with their logic, you’ll just be lost trying to chase a wild goose.

  8. In Canada we have had and still do have strict registration of handguns since 1934. At present you can’t legally transport a handgun unless you are going to a shooting range and they know your coming. As for a hunting rifle legal purchase of a gun and ammunition requires a possession licence. As for the AR-15 it is restricted and should stay that way. Not really sure what benefit there is to another long gun registry in Canada. One very unfortunate example is the recent murder trial of Tim Bosma. I believe it was shown he was shot with a hand gun. A very sad and unfortunate event. Even with our strict control of hand guns they are the weapon of choice in crime. You unfortunately can’t legislate against human action.

  9. in Canada, the application process for acquiring a gun license is much more rigorous than in the U.S.

    (8 pages)


    If you are applying for a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) for non-restricted firearms, you must have passed the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC). If you are applying for a PAL for restricted firearms, you must have passed two safety courses: the CFSC and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC).


    16. a) During the past five (5) years, have you been charged, convicted or granted a discharge for an offence: (i) under the Criminal Code or the Youth Criminal Justice Act where violence was used, threatened or attempted; (ii) involving the misuse, possession or storage of a firearm; or (iii) involving trafficking or importing drugs or controlled substances?
    16 b) During the past five (5) years have you been subject to a peace bond protection order or an order under section 810 of the Criminal Code?
    16. c) During the past five (5) years have you or any member of your household been prohibited from possessing any firearm?
    16. d) During the past five (5) years have you threatened or attempted suicide or have you suffered from or been diagnosed or treated by a medical practitioner for: depression; alcohol drug or substance abuse;behavioural problems; or emotional problems?
    16. e) During the past five (5) years do you know if you have been reported to the police or social services for violence threatened or attempted violence or other conflict in your home or elsewhere?
    16. f) During the past two (2) years have you experienced a divorce a separation a breakdown of a significant relationship job loss or bankruptcy?

    D – Conjugal Status (You must answer both questions 17. a) & b) or your licence application will be delayed.)

    17. a) Do you currently have a spouse common-law or other conjugal partner? If yes you must complete section E.17.
    b) Within the last two (2) years have you lived in a conjugal relationship other than with the person you may have referred to in question 17. a)?

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