The government wants enhanced background checks to weed out potentially problematic gun owners.
Photo by Flickr user Kevin Reese
The Canadian government is considering bolstering background checks for potential firearms owners in order to better vet people who may have mental illness or other issues, according information obtained by the Canadian Press.
In a public safety memo, obtained by the CP, the government said it wants enhanced background checks for people who want to be allowed to own handguns and restricted firearms. The memo also said the government may have more measures for re-assessing existing firearms owners in case they want to revoke a license.
The proposed policies come in light of three consecutive years of increases in gun homicides in Canada. There were 223 gun homicides here in 2016—up 44 from 2015—112 of which were gang related.
But Rod Giltaca, executive director of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, told VICE the new measures won't target the real issue: gang violence. He said they will only punish law abiding gun owners.
“They want the public to believe that something is being done when it usually isn’t.”
Currently, people applying for a gun license have to disclose mental health issues and medications they've been on within the last five years. Giltaca said an enhanced background check will likely mean the government will extend that period of time. But seeing as it's all self-reported anyway, he said it's just as easy to lie.
As for checking on existing gun owners, he said their names are already run through the Canadian Police Information Centre, which keeps data on criminals. Therefore, if a gun owner had a brush with the law, authorities would be alerted.
“Other than installing a camera on my forehead to watch me 24/7, I’m not sure how you can do anything more than that,” Giltaca said.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is currently hosting a Summit on Gun and Gang Violence in Ottawa with police, academics, and representatives from major cities in attendance. The purpose of the summit is to tackle gang violence in major cities, such as Ottawa and Toronto.
The conversation comes as the US is fiercely debating implementing stricter gun laws in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting that left 17 students dead. Florida is considering raising the age required to purchase a gun from 18 to 21.
The federal government has earmarked $327 million over the next five years on curbing gun violence.
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