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P.E.I. firearm owners say federal bill will not reduce violence

President of the P.E.I. Provincial Rifle Association Dave Hanson, from left, chats with Larry Sherren, Susan Mullen and Donna Myers following an information session on proposed changes to Canadian firearms regulations at Stratford Town Hall Tuesday.  ©THE GUARDIAN
President of the P.E.I. Provincial Rifle Association Dave Hanson, from left, chats with Larry Sherren, Susan Mullen and Donna Myers following an information session on proposed changes to Canadian firearms regulations at Stratford Town Hall Tuesday. ©THE GUARDIAN - Mitch MacDonald

Susan Mullen doesn’t own a firearm.

However, the P.E.I. woman was one of more than 30 Islanders at an information session Tuesday night who shared concerns that proposed federal gun control measures will unfairly target law-abiding firearms owners while doing little to curb gun violence.

Mullen shared her concerns about Bill C-71, which proposes amendments to the Canadian Firearms Act, following the meeting hosted by the P.E.I. Provincial Rifle Association and Women Shooters of P.E.I. at Stratford Town Hall.

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“My common-law partner is a very responsible gun owner… I don’t believe what they’re trying to do to him is right,” she said. “I think it’s very interesting they’re pushing this through as gang violence prevention when there’s very little focus on actually punishing the person in the gang.”

One of the major concerns shared by the group was that the bill would give government’s current power to classify firearms to the RCMP.

“Unfortunately, there’s no oversight by elected officials once that’s in place,” said association member Charles Bachmanek, who gave an overview of the proposed bill.

Bachmanek took issue with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s comments that gun homicides have increased by two-thirds since 2013.
Bachmanek cited numbers from Statistics Canada and Simon Fraser University professor Gary Mauser that the overall trend is a steady decline in gun-related homicides since the 1990s.

He also quoted Toronto Mayor John Tory as saying that 98 per cent of that city’s gun homicides are gang and drug related.

“C-71 unfortunately targets gun owners, not the gangs,” said Bachmanek. “It’s a feel-good measure… and when the populace realizes this bill didn’t do what was expected, government will come up with another measure… and it will be the firearms community who’s going to suffer each and every time.”

Among several other measures, the bill would increase background checks and require firearms sellers to validate firearms licences of purchasers.

However, many at the meeting said that’s already being done.

“I’ve never gone anywhere, even to buy a box of ammunition, where I didn’t have to provide my license… it is checked 100 per cent of the time,” said P.E.I. Rifle Association President Dave Hanson, who noted the meeting is one of many currently being held throughout Canada.
Several at the meeting also made a point of noting the major differences between gun control laws between Canada and the U.S.
“In the U.S., firearms ownership is a right. In Canada, it’s a privilege and it’s hard to acquire,” said Duncan Crawford, who moderated the meeting and suggested those concerned contact their elected officials. “Realistically, I think that’s the most actionable thing we can do.”

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