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Understanding the gun debate in Canada

Understanding the gun debate in Canada

The current campaign issue of gun policy has provided Justin Trudeau with what he hopes will be a wedge issue against Erin O’Toole. In the early going he has been successful in getting O’Toole to backtrack on his promise to reverse the ban on certain assault-type weapons. Yesterday O’Toole was forced to retreat, saying he would leave all current gun bans in place until a review of Canada’s gun laws could be conducted. The current Conservative policy on guns is here.

In his comments today, Justin Trudeau repeatedly referred to O’Toole caving in to the Canadian gun lobby, prompting us to wonder just what the gun-owning community looks like in Canada. Some interesting facts emerge:

  • Gun ownership is not a fringe pastime—one in four Canadian households is home to a gun.
  • 95 percent of guns owned in Canada are long guns
  • There are more than 20 million guns in private hands in Canada
  • Canada ranks 7th in the world for total number of guns owned, not per-capita—total guns.

The two most prominent pro-gun organizations in Canada are the National Firearms Association, whose website says it has been in existence for about 40 years and the Canadian Association for Firearms Right who issued the following statement Sunday when Erin O’Toole made his retreat on assault type weapons: “We agree with Mr. O ‘ Toole so that gun classification should not be a political process. Mr. Trudeau used this issue to divide Canadians and a transparent and public consultation would give all Canadians a better understanding of this topic. We would be happy to have the opportunity to depolarize this topic and focus on public safety.”

Both organizations hold essentially similar views—that their members are law-abiding citizens, and that gun controls do nothing to take weapons out of the hands of criminals.

Hunting rifles and shotguns are neither restricted nor prohibited, in Canada but it is illegal to possess them without a firearms acquisitions certificate. People who have committed certain serious crimes are not eligible for an acquisition certificate to possess any firearm.

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