Canadians want a ban on handguns and assault weapons

On 24 May 2019, the Angus Reid Institute, a Canadian non-profit foundation committed to independent research, released its latest detailed public opinion survey on gun regulation. Despite Canadians splitting evenly over whether gun violence is a serious problem or “overblown” by the media, the Institute found a strong consensus overall in favour of tougher gun regulation.

Key findings include:

  • 61% support for a total ban on civilian possession of handguns
  • 75% support for a total ban on assault weapons
  • 80% support for expanded background checks and comprehensive tracking of gun sale records

The support for expanded background checks and comprehensive tracking of gun sale records includes majority support from current and former gun owners. Note also that these very measures are contained in Bill C-71, just approved by the Senate (and discussed further below).

The Angus Reid Institute report also addresses the sharp differences between their survey and an online poll conducted by the Government of Canada, exposing a shockingly inadequate methodology for the latter. Participation was by self-selection, with no effort to ensure a representative sample. Worse still, no limit was placed on how many times one person could fill out the online survey:

One Quebec resident claimed to have used software to send more than 25,000 responses during the survey window.

To put it bluntly, the Government of Canada online survey failed to meet the most basic criteria for accurately measuring the views of Canadians on gun regulation.

The Angus Reid Institute survey also revealed some important differences in the top concerns of urban and rural Canadians over gun-related violence, with rural Canadians more worried about firearms being used in suicides or accidental shootings than their urban counterparts.

Also of note is the finding that two-thirds of Canadians say they would support a taxpayer-funded buy-back program for gun owners if the government did ban handguns, assault weapons or both.

(For information on the respective results of a Toronto firearms buy-back and a Montreal long gun amnesty program, see: Toronto police collect 2,700 firearms through gun buyback program (cbc.ca/news, 18 May 2019) and Quebec credits new gun registry for huge jump in number of voluntary surrenders (Giuseppe Valiante, Canadian Press, in northshorenews.com, 18 May 2019).

For the full Angus Reid Institute survey results, see: Amid concern over spread of gun violence, majorities support ban on handguns, assault weapons. (angusreid.org, 24 May 2019).

The Andrew Scheer Conservatives want weaker, not stronger, gun regulation

Compare the strong support of Canadians for better gun control with the behaviour of the Andrew Scheer Conservatives in the Senate in April. Taking advantage of the Red Chamber’s arcane rules, they ganged up in Committee to weaken Bill C-71, An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms.

In the words of Professor Wendy Cukier, head of the Canadian Coalition for Gun Control :

Bill C-71 was exceedingly modest, aimed at reinstating the requirement for gun sellers to maintain records and … reversing measures the Conservatives had introduced to erode controls on handguns.

Wendy Cukier went on to say:

Canada is one of a handful of countries in the world that is going backwards at a time when countries like New Zealand are taking decisive action to curb gun violence…. Canadians should have no doubt [about] the influence of the gun lobby and its ability to hijack the agenda.

The good news is that the full Senate rejected the Conservative amendments and approved the original version of Bill C-71. The danger now is that delaying tactics might prevent a final vote before the House rises at the end of June.

But the Angus Reid Institute survey tells us that Canadians want much more than the passage of Bill C-71. They want nothing short of a total ban on civilian possession of handguns and assault weapons.

 

Photo credit: ZhengZhou (The sculpture Non-Violence by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, in front of UN headquarters in New York)

 

 

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