In response to rising amounts of gun-related crime nationwide, the Liberal Party plans on rolling out tougher gun control laws if re-elected.
Two of their key points are a ban on “military-style assault rifles,” like the AR-15, and giving municipalities the ability to ban handguns.
Vancouver’s mayor has said he’d pursue a handgun ban, as that city and Toronto have seen surges in gun crimes involving these weapons.
But what about Saskatchewan? Gun crime is on the rise here too. In Regina for example, police recorded 51 violent gun incidents between Jan. 1 and July 31 in 2015. In the same time period this year, there were 108 incidents.
Previously, Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said he doesn’t see a handgun ban as the end solution to addressing these crimes.
“Banning something doesn’t mean you’re not going to have firearm-related crime in your community,” Bray said on Aug. 29.
Bray was unavailable for an interview on Sept. 26, but a police spokesperson said his prior comments would still stand.
To get to the root of gun crime, Bray said it needs to be looked at from a variety of angles.
“Obviously holding offenders accountable, trying to dig into what are the causes, why are these firearms being used in our community in the commission of an offence?” he said.
“I don’t know if we go a night where we don’t hear about some firearm offence going on in our city.”
Police in Regina, Saskatoon and the Saskatchewan RCMP all see the same types of firearms primarily used in crimes. All three police agencies say they see simple weapons, such as .22-calibre rifles and shotguns. Often times, they have had their barrels sawn-down for easier concealment.
Police often say firearms used in crime are stolen.
In a statement, Saskatchewan’s Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell echoed what officers have been experiencing, adding most guns used in crime are stolen or come from the black market.
“We support federal efforts to reduce gun crime that focus on stronger penalties for those engaged in illicit gun sales, additional investment in crime prevention and reduction strategies, and the provision of additional resources to organizations that target sources of illegal guns, such as cross-border gun smuggling,” Tell said.
Tell also re-emphasized the connection between gun crime, gangs and drugs — pointing to several initiatives like the provincial Gang Reduction Strategy.
A re-elected Liberal government says they plan to strengthen safe-storage laws in an effort to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on guns. However, their policy page does not include details.
Darryl Schemenaur, the owner of Regina-based TnT Gunworks, has his own idea to strengthen gun security.
“If they want firearms to be secured properly, it’s way cheaper to give everybody with a PAL a $500 or $600 gun safe than it is to do the registry system again,” he said.
The Liberals said they would not bring back the long-gun registry, but Schemenaur is critical of Bill C-71, calling it a “backdoor registry.” This requires gun store owners to conduct more extensive background checks and report sale data.
Like Bray, Schemenaur sees the rise in gun crime as a deeper issue than just access.
“When you look at the world today, it’s all drug and gang-related. The drugs are an issue, take care of that kind of problem and I think the guns will take care of themselves,” Schemenaur said.
Finally, Schemenaur is wary of an assault weapon ban. It’s unclear what kinds of weapons would be classified as “military-style” Weapons like the AR-15 are already restricted in Canada, with full-automatic weapons being banned.
“It’s already a restricted firearm in Canada. It’s the same laws as purchasing a handgun. Like I say, it’s very rarely used in a crime in Canada,” he said.
Additionally, Schemenaur said he has seen more demand for AR-15s with talk of banning the firearm.