Waterloo Region Record

Gun owners deserve a voice in gun-control debate


In Canada’s growing cities where the vast majority of Canadians reside, support for tougher gun controls is strong and growing stronger.

It’s hardly any wonder. Gun-related crimes including homicides are on the rise in places like Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and even Waterloo Region. In too many inner cities, competing criminal gangs are trapped in a violent, escalating arms race fuelled by illegally imported weapons.

Meanwhile, the shock waves from what seem to be almost daily mass shootings in the United States reverberat­e across the border, rattling many Canadians while convincing them only drastic action — possibly including a handgun ban — will spare them from America’s bloody insanity.

All these voices, all these concerns should be heard. But there’s another perspectiv­e that deserves airing and full considerat­ion as Canadians head into another federal election where the issue of gun control will be large and divisive. That’s the perspectiv­e of law-abiding gun owners. And they’re the kind of thoughtful but sometimes frustrated people who gathered at a store called Shooters Choice in Waterloo last week for what was billed as a “firearms town hall meeting.”

Harold Albrecht, the Conservati­ve MP for Kitchener-Conestoga riding, was there to lend a sympatheti­c ear. So was Canada’s only registered gun lobbyist, Tracey Wilson. And it definitely wasn’t the National Rifle Associatio­n come north. Everyone from this crowd of 25 people who got up to speak calmly explained they have legitimate reasons to own guns and do so in full compliance with Canada’s laws.

Some of them are hunters. Some shoot targets at ranges or in competitio­ns. Meanwhile, coming from a federal riding with a large rural constituen­cy, Albrecht represents many farmers who rely on rifles as an essential farm implement to protect livestock from predators such as coyotes. There’s often an urbanrural divide in attitudes to gun ownership in Canada. And that’s partly because country folk can need a gun in ways city dwellers simply don’t.

One message heard loud and clear at the Waterloo meeting was that America’s far more permissive approach to firearms often distorts people’s understand­ing of the Canadian reality. It’s far easier to get guns of all sizes and capabiliti­es there than in Canada. While Americans enjoy a constituti­onal right “to bear arms,” Canadians don’t. And unlike people in many parts of the U.S. who can legally carry a concealed handgun, Canadian handgun owners face far tighter restrictio­ns.

To be sure, the current federal government has already tightened Canada’s gun laws, quite fairly insisting on more rigorous background checks for people wanting to buy a firearm. And on Monday, Ottawa announced it’s giving Ontario $54 million over the next three years to combat illegal gun and gang activity. That’s an initiative everyone should be able to support.

But where do we go next? Based on what was said last week in Waterloo, we believe reasonably minded Canadian gun owners accept that firearms restrictio­ns are absolutely necessary. We also think many of these gun owners are willing to look at evolving legislatio­n. Yet while they’re willing to do more to enhance public safety, they do not want to surrender the right to own a gun.

All this is worth keeping in mind as Canadians grapple with a polarizing issue. There are good reasons for us all to be passionate about effective gun controls.

But nothing is served in demonizing an entire group of people for their views. The more respectful, informed dialogue that happens in this country, the better will be the laws and policies our government­s bring forward.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada