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Take aim at gun advisory body; it’s dysfunctional and biased

Should Canada loosen the laws to make it easier to obtain handguns and restricted weapons? Absolutely not. But the federal firearms advisory committee says otherwise.

The committee recently recommended the rules be changed, saying some prohibited weapons, including handguns and assault rifles, should be reclassified to make them more easily available.

The recommendation makes no sense. And its absurdity has been noted by the federal government, which says it will never happen.

Some Canadians are still angry over the controversial scrapping of the long-barrel gun registry. Now this puzzling recommendation.

It is particularly puzzling give that handguns are the weapon of choice in Canada when it comes to firearm violence, accounting for about 70 per cent of gun-related killings.

Much to his credit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, rebuked the recommendations and promised a review of the advisory committee’s membership. The body is dominated by sport shooting enthusiasts and those opposed to gun control.

“Let me be clear as I can be,” Harper told the Commons last week. “Prohibited weapons exist as a category under the law for essential reasons of public security. The government has absolutely no intention of weakening that category of protections.”

Does this advisory committee want gun laws similar to those in the United States? We don’t need mentally unstable shooters obtaining firearms and ammunition enough to create horrible public tragedies, like those that are far too commonplace in the U.S.

The committee also recommended that firearms licences be good for at least 10 years, as opposed to the current five. Again, the suggestion is ludicrous. The five-year renewal rule is in place for good reason — to assess the competence of the licence holders. Plenty can happen to a person over 10 years. Police say that the five-year rule is a chance to weed out unstable gun owners.

Harper is obligated to review the committee in light of these recommendations. The committee, which answers to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, is top-heavy with pro-gun advocates — hardly a recipe for impartial review of gun legislation.

The 14-member committee is co-chaired by Steve Torino, president of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association. It includes prominent anti-registry advocates like Tony Bernardo, a gun-rights champion with the same association; Greg Farrant of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters; Linda Thom, an Olympic gold medalist in pistol shooting; and Niagara police Const. John Gayder, who has written that gun control “will prove to be as disastrously misguided as leech therapy, shock treatment and Thalidomide were to the field of medicine.”

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae suggested the committee needs wider representation, including police chiefs, and groups dealing with domestic violence and suicide prevention.

Harper all but agreed. “I will take the advice of the leader of the Liberal party under consideration,” he said. “I’m obviously very concerned with some of the recommendations made in the report, and I think the committee does need some re-examination in that light.”

The committee needs an overhaul to achieve balance, or it should be scrapped.

Rick Zemanek is a former Advocate editor.



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