As many of you know – the Conservative Party of Canada (Parti conservateur du Canada) is slated to select its next leader on May 27th, 2017. Currently there are twelve candidates vying for this incredibly important position as not only leader of the CPC, but leader of the Official Opposition in Ottawa. We decided reach out to every single candidate to see where they stood on issues that were important to the millions of Canadian firearms owners.
Chris Alexander; Eighteen year veteran of the Canadian Foreign Service Ambassador to Afghanistan (2003-2005) Deputy Special Representative of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (2005-2009) Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence (2011-2013) Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (2013-2015)
Do you think Canada’s existing gun laws need to be rewritten?
I think our laws and regulations still have room for improvement to expunge the last residue of Bill C-68. We need to reduce the scope of arbitrary decisions. We would definitely need to rewrite the law to place responsibility for legislation and regulation of firearms acquisition, possession, and transport to a body outside of the RCMP. A fully accountable body. If we got it right, the cabinet that enacted this legislation could have much more confidence in the expert advice they were getting.
Do you think that self-defense is a legitimate reason for firearms possession?
Yeah, I mean there are all kinds of reasons. I think the primary reason is going to be hunting, sport shooting, farming, and the motivations that are so common across this great country. There are other motivations as well and there are all kinds of lifestyles in this country. Self defense is recognized under the law; it’s a principle of our National Defence, it’s not going to go away. We want to have a country with safe communities and with a low crime rate. We want to have a country where neighbors help each other and know each other and are not suspicious of each other or hostile against each other – it does not always happen but I can tell you that it happens more in Canada than in most other countries in the world.
I grew up in a neighborhood in Toronto were most people see a chaotic place; I grew up in a house where the door was never locked. I know many people in Canada that can speak to this kind of story, which is a good story. I respect those who see self defense as a reason to be careful, at the same time – I think we have a very different culture than in the United States.
Further, anyone who has been a victim of a violent crime is going to have a different perspective on the issue of self defense. We have to respect that. We need to put their rights, their needs, and the perspective of victims at the center of our policy when we are thinking on how to regulate and legislate in these areas. I know a lot of veterans, my friends and colleagues, who were in Afghanistan for example, who will also have a different perspective just because of their experience of the world. We need to respect that too. I think Brad’s proposals, seeing off duty or retired police officers as an asset in terms of their potential role in public safety, are also important. We as a government tried to make it possible for innocents to do the right thing when they see a crime. I have members of my family that have made citizens arrests, now it’s clearer that they have the right to do that, and that is welcome. Our duty as citizens is to uphold the law, which means if you see a crime you phone 911 or you help the person being attacked, self defense is part of that. The public safety dimension of self defense, that we all value, is going to include firearms for some people.
Do you believe the AR-15 should remain restricted?
No it should not. That is a case of perception trumping reality for the RCMP – we should be guided by facts, use, and reality.
Will you commit to removing sound suppressors from the prohibited devices list? Further to that, what are your thoughts around magazine size restrictions?
Yes, I would commit to removing sound suppressors from the prohibited devices list. Further, magazine restrictions need to reviewed on the basis of common sense – by an independent professional body accountable to elected people, accountable to Canadians. Not the RCMP. The distinctions made in the past are totally arbitrary – if I were a daily sport shooter, it would have long ago driven me to despair.
Will you commit to ensuring that no existing non-restricted firearms, restricted firearms or devices would be classified as prohibited under your leadership?
Absolutely, we have had trouble with this classification issue – the trend has been towards over classification. Under my leadership, under a renewed Conservative leadership – prohibited firearms would remain so, restricted would remain so, and non restricted would remain so. The only debate is for when completely new products came into the market. They would need to be evaluated on their own merits, not just given the same treatment as a previous one because they look like something else. Prohibitions and restrictions that we have, have not – in my view, contributed much to making Canada a safer place. What we need is the full recognition that our firearms community is a very responsible one and that it’s their behavior that determines how these issues play out in Canada, and that behavior has been a model for the world. Our problem is not with legal firearms; our problem is with a few illegal weapons, that nobody has registered, that nobody will see until a crime happens because they belong to criminal groups. The solution there is police work; it is not more prohibitions and restrictions.
How do we protect property rights, especially when it pertains to firearms? (In reference to the 2013 Alberta Flood firearms seizure)
This is another case of the RCMP, on almost an industrial scale, presuming guilt and presuming fault that simply is not there. This is a clear example of the firearms community being mistreated. Yes, saving lives and preventing explosions is a good thing in a public emergency, but seizing people’s property is not. I am not aware of a single case where the firearms in question were shown to have not been secure, so the RCMP, while a respected institution with a proud history – has overstepped its bounds in a very serious way in this case and we should ensure it does not happen again. Private property is private property; firearms for the millions of Canadians are a part of that private property and that needs to be respected. We all support police work where a crime has been committed or where there is reasonable cause. In the case of law abiding firearms owners, with their licenses – this just does not happen very often, even at all.
How do we as a society separate the negative term that is “weapon” from hunting and sport shooting?
Canadians, those who live a long way from firearms, wilderness, wildlife, as much as those living in smaller communities, should grow up understanding the role of firearms. It is part of our heritage, it is part of our story, it is a proud part of that story, and that heritage needs to be told for what it is and not just lumped into some narrative you got from watching American TV or reading the news about some other countries with militias, conflict, and chaos. Canada is a big place with a deep history – we built it up to be the envy of the world in so many respects by hard work and by being responsible. The firearms story, the way firearms are used, the required skill and professionalism from the people that use them, the way they are stored, all the safety culture that we have here in Canada, is part of that. It kills me to hear people really misunderstand our history while also tarring a big group of their fellow citizens with a brush they do not deserve. I think things are getting a bit better, I think after 10 years of a Conservative government that actually put these issues on the table every day, we started to change the culture, but we still have a way to go. The crime rate went down in Canada – if you listen to any of these liberal “banshees of doom” about the gun registry, they said that if it was scrapped – crime would soar. We knew that wasn’t true, it turned out not be true. The other point is Afghanistan, people saw their fellow citizens in our army using firearms as weapons in a conflict, and doing it very responsibly. Being tough, being the best combat troops anywhere, at the same time showing restraint and protecting civilians – you start to understand the difference between firearms and weapons, which Canadians have always understood – but since we were arguably out of combat since Korea, we hadn’t seen our troops demonstrate what they could do. It reminded people why this technology is with us, why it is part of sports, hunting, shooting, and farm life in Canada to a very large extent. Further, why it is part of dealing with a difficult and dangerous world outside of our borders.