Loopholes

March 31, 2014 1:43 pm
Updated: March 31, 2014 9:41 pm

Hobbling RCMP would politicize gun-control decisions, NDP warns

NDP MP Randall Garrison argues taking away the RCMP's ability to classify guns would be a bad move.

THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Adrian Wyld
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Taking away the RCMP’s ability to ban guns would politicize gun control, the NDP’s Public Safety Critic warns.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has promised a “permanent solution” in the face of anger among gun-owners after the RCMP banned two types of semi-automatic rifles.

While the minister didn’t say exactly what he planned, the suggestion is he’d somehow take decision-making power away from the RCMP, which has traditionally been the arms-length policing body charged with interpreting gun laws.

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“The Conservatives are letting their ideology run their decisions on the availability of dangerous weapons,” Garrison said. “We’ve seen this with the firearms committee, which they’ve stacked with gun advocates.”

The federal Conservatives were prompted last year to shake up the membership of that firearms advisory committee to include a more balanced perspective. But none of the new members showed up to its meeting, Global News learned.

READ MORE: Police chiefs meant to balance gun advisory board missed its only meeting

“Now we’ve seen them suggesting, through their backbenchers, that they may take away the ability of the RCMP to make decisions on which guns are prohibited,” Garrison added. “That would make this a very political question, rather than what it should be, which is a technical public safety question.”

Blair Hagen, spokesperson for the National Firearms Associatio, sees things differently.

“It’s got to be taken out of the hands of the RCMP,” he said. “The Canadian firearms industry really needs to be involved with this. This is a business, this is an industry, people have a financial stake and interest in this.”

As Global News reported last week, the RCMP reclassified two types of semi-automatic rifles – all semi-automatic rifles made by Swiss Arms and all semi-automatic CZ858 rifles made since 2007 – in late February. Amid the ensuing furor among owners, Blaney first announced a vague two-year amnesty, then vowed to “bring forward measures in the coming weeks to protect all law-abiding firearms owners from these types of retroactive and unpredictable decisions.”

It remains unclear what those measures would be, but they’d likely take decision-making power away from the RCMP in some form.

The RCMP and successive public safety ministers appear to have been at odds over gun control before: Police memos have warned that outdated gun-control rules are endangering public safety, but they appear to have had no demonstrable impact.

READ MORE: Briefing note to Public Safety Minister hints at tighter gun control

Heidi Rathjen survived the 1989 Montreal Massacre and has since become a vocal proponent of gun control.

“It is extremely important to keep these public safety decisions in the hands of police, and far away from politicians, given that the issue of gun control is highly tainted with political ideology,” she told Global News in an email.

“This is doubly important with respect to the Conservative government, whose decisions on gun control have systematically followed the wished of the gun lobby at the expense of public safety.”

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