Sunday, December 16, 2012

RCMP worried: Harper considers loose gun laws

The Toronto Star:

Ottawa — The federal Conservatives are considering sweeping recommendations from an influential government firearms advisory committee to loosen Canada’s gun control laws, the Star has learned.

The proposed changes would touch on many of the remaining restrictions on firearms and critics say would pose a risk to public safety.

The proposals include getting rid of the “prohibited” category of firearms and reclassifying weapons such as certain handguns and assault weapons as “restricted” only, and extending the duration of owner licences from five to 10 years — a move the RCMP warns would strip away an important safety check.

The 12 committee members also called for the removal of the requirement on gun owners to get an “authorization to transport” firearms, and for the creation of a committee to advise on the classification of imported firearms — but said it should be made up mostly of advisers from industry.

They recommended seized firearms — which by law must now be destroyed — be made legally available for public sale or trade. They suggested a “prohibited persons registry” could be set up to aid the tracking of those who should not be allowed to possess guns, but otherwise prohibited weapons should be reclassified.

Firearms licences should be valid for at least 10 years “or longer,” said the committee, and “if a licence expires, it should go into suspension until renewed, removing the criminalization of the firearm possessor.”

Toews’ office confirmed Wednesday that he is actively considering the recommendations, particularly a licence of longer duration.

Assistant Commissioner Pierre Perron, responsible for the Canadian Firearms Centre, was at the March meeting and warned extending the duration of licences to 10 years “would limit” the RCMP’s “ability to monitor, on a timely basis, any changes to an individual’s mental health status,” according to a written record of the discussion that Toews’ office prepared. That’s because when a licence is renewed, an individual must answer questions about mental health or changes in personal circumstances that could affect their fitness to own a weapon— and the form must be verified by another person.

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