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Bill C-21: Some cities want promised increased powers, others don’t

Back in February, the Liberal government announced Bill C-21, a big chunk of gun control legislation. While there are many facets to Bill C-21 (and subsequent Bill C-22), the section dealing with municipalities is one of the most significant. Bill C-21 allows cities to effectively ban handguns. In the aftermath, some civic leaders are happy with that idea, and others aren’t.

How we got here

Here’s what Bill C-21 said about municipalities and handguns:

Support municipalities that wish to restrict handguns
  • The federal government would create conditions on an individual’s federal firearms licence to restrict handgun storage and transport in those municipalities that pass bylaws to these effects.
  • Any municipality has the option to pass bylaws related to handgun storage and transport in their jurisdiction, such as prohibiting storage at home or prohibiting storage anywhere within municipal boundaries, and limiting transport to or from the municipality, if allowed by their province/territory.
  • Breach of the federal firearms licence condition would carry a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment, as well as possible revocation of a firearms licence or a registration certificate. 

Essentially, the federal government is saying it’s willing to hand off power over handgun control to cities. If a municipal government wants to ban handgun storage within its limits, it can do so.

The fallout

In the weeks since Bill C-21’s release, there’s been a range of responses from municipal governments. Kennedy Stewart, mayor of Vancouver, was quick off the draw. Within hours, he promised to introduce a municipal handgun ban “at the earliest opportunity.” With a bylaw passed, Stewart said Vancouver would enact the ban as soon as Bill C-21 passed. Surrey mayor Doug McCallum echoed those ideas. McCallum said ” I am directing staff to immediately begin work on a bylaw for Council approval as quickly as possible.”

Other mayors didn’t jump to say they’d insta-ban handguns, but were certainly interested in examining the idea. Mike Savage, mayor of Halifax, told CTV “We’ll have to look at it … see what our options are.”

And, some civic leaders are unhappy with the government’s plan. The Southwest Voice said Patrick Lemieux, communications director of the Union des Municipalités du Québec, expressed confusion over Bill C-21. He did not disagree with the idea of a handgun ban, but said cities aren’t equipped to deal with such laws. The Southwest Voice quoted Patrick Bousez, mayor of Rivière-Beaudette, as saying cities don’t have the resources to handle a handgun ban, and that it falls under federal jurisdiction. He thinks better regulation of firearms is a good idea, but doesn’t think law-abiding gun owners are a problem.

There’s more. In Ontario this week, civic leaders from North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Greater Sudbury, and Thunder Bay also voiced unhappiness with Bill C-21.

The letter says “In Northern Ontario alone, there are approximately 145 municipalities. We cannot begin to imagine the complexity the large number of municipalities in our area would create for law enforcement officials,” TBSNewsWatch told readers. “On a matter such as handguns, it is clear to us that the Federal Government must own the responsibility for setting the rules. We strongly believe it is important that the Federal Government of Canada put in place legislation ensuring uniformity across the country when it comes to rules related to handguns.”

What should you do?

Many civic politicians are expressing concerns over Bill C-21. If you’re a handgun owner, your local leaders might be for a municipal handgun ban, or against, or on the fence. First, you need to find out their position. If they’re planning a crackdown if Bill C-21 is passed (no guarantees there), figure out how to convince them otherwise. Educate them about Canada’s strict storage rules and other gun control laws already in place. Reach out to your local CCFR members for help. Be respectful, and show that legal gun owners aren’t the problem.