A gunman kills 22 people in Nova Scotia in Canada’s worst mass shooting and 12 days later the federal government bans a range of military-style firearms.
On its own, this could be seen as decisive and speedy action.
But, as we know all too well, this massacre doesn’t stand on its own. It is Canada’s deadliest mass shooting but it’s far from an isolated incident.
A ban on these awful weapons designed to kill the most people in the shortest amount of time is long overdue. That’s beyond obvious when the list of 1,500 models, now banned by regulation, includes the Ruger Mini-14. That’s the firearm used by the gunman in the 1989 mass murder of 14 women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique.
That was 31 long years ago. Between then and now, tragically, there have been plenty of other reasons and opportunities to ban these weapons. And even now, the Trudeau government is only doing a partial job of it.
There’s a two-year grace period during which owners will get to keep (but not use) these banned firearms while the government figures out the details of, and passes legislation for, a buy-back program to compensate them. But the government also intends to provide a grandfathering option where existing owners will be allowed to keep them.
It makes little sense, except as a way to reduce the cost of the compensation program, and it could reduce the effectiveness of the ban. Leaving these firearms in the community simply raises the potential that they could fall into the wrong hands and be used in the next massacre.
But the most glaring problem with what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday is that it entirely ignores the most deadly weapons in Canada: handguns.
Trudeau says the government is intending to work with provinces to give individual municipalities the ability to restrict or ban handguns within their own borders.
That’s an abdication of Ottawa’s responsibility. Worse still, it’s completely unworkable.
Toronto, the city hardest hit by gun violence, would dearly love to see a handgun ban. But it would need permission from the Ford government, which has said it’s against any such ban.
Trudeau rightly sees that “you don’t need an AR-15 to bring down a deer.”
Well, you don’t use a handgun to shoot one either. Nor does a farmer need a handgun to kill pests.
But every year handguns are used in hundreds of shooting incidents in communities across the country. In Toronto alone, there were 44 deaths last year because of gun violence on city streets. Just last Sunday a 15-year-old was shot dead.
In announcing the ban on many military-style firearms, Trudeau said shooting tragedies “shape our identity, they stain our conscience, they make adults out of children, and the heartbreaking truth is they’re happening more often than they once did.”
That’s just as true, if not even more so, when it comes to the handgun-fuelled violence in our cities.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he appreciates that some people may feel the assault rifles the government is banning have “recreational value” but “public safety must always be our first priority.”
It’s long past time we took that same view on handguns.
And, yes, as critics are always quick to point out, a ban on legal guns doesn’t magically rid us of the illegal ones. But it does reduce the overall number that can fall into the wrong hands by accident, theft or intent, though straw purchases.
Get more opinion in your inbox
Go straight to the heart of an issue with the Star’s Opinion newsletter, featuring the latest from our top columnists and more.
Banning a range of military-style firearms is an important first step for Canada. But our biggest gun problem remains handguns and without banning those Trudeau’s Liberals aren’t doing enough to truly limit gun violence and death in this country.
“Every single Canadian wants to see less gun violence and safer communities,” Trudeau said.
He’s right. We do. But it will take more than this to make that happen.