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With the restrictions and complications that have been added to our lives since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it's easy to forget there are other significant events happening in this world.
This illusion was shattered on April 19 when news began to break about a mass shooting that was taking place across some rural communities in Nova Scotia. Since that day, people have started to work through the shock, grief, and anger brought about by this tragic event, and questions have emerged about the weapons used during this shooting and where the shooter obtained them. This has reignited the debate about gun control in this country and, late last week, the federal government announced some measures that are long overdue.
The government announced an immediate ban on around 1,500 weapons designated military-style assault weapons and noted that among these were the types of weapons used in this shooting and in previous mass shootings in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted these weapons were designed solely for the purpose of killing people and had no place in Canadian communities or on our streets. It was also acknowledged that such weapons may have been purchased legally in Canada and there will an amnesty period for these situations and likely a program to buy them back from these owners. It remains to be seen how this announcement will play out into the future.
As might be expected, this announcement has drawn a response from advocates on both sides of this issue. Advocates for gun control have welcomed the decision but noted that it did not go far enough and would like to see a broader extension of weapons banned.
Those who oppose gun control have stated this will do nothing to make Canadians safer because legal gun owners aren't the ones committing crimes and the criminals are obtaining their weapons illegally, mainly from the United States. They also accuse the Liberals of playing politics by making this move now after the tragic events in Nova Scotia and while parliament is shackled by the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Opposition leader Andrew Scheer particularly noted this decision has not been debated by parliament and was a major policy decision the Liberals were ramming through during this time.
It is very unfortunate that such an important issue should be clouded by political considerations. The reality is that both sides of the issue have some valid points but because such strong positions have been taken on both sides, it has created a deadlock in which no forward movement is happening. The Liberals did promise gun control back in 2015 when first elected, so making this decision now does have political gain, as they could have introduced this legislation at any time. Likewise, the Conservatives have long opposed gun control because the core of their base of support lies in areas where gun ownership is accepted and they have long championed any restriction on individual freedoms.
If we have learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that there are times we, as Canadians, must come together and make sacrifices of our individual freedoms in order to ensure public safety. We have done so and all federal parties have worked together to quickly put through decisions that support public health safety and those that support Canadians economically through this crisis; for the most part, political partisanship has been put aside in creating public safety.
Why should it be any different when it comes to public safety around gun control? If there was ever a time to break the deadlock, it is now after the tragic events in Nova Scotia, and while politicians are in the mindset of moving quickly on crucial issues. It won't solve the problem of gun violence in Canada but it will be a start in creating public safety and I would think that keeping military-style assault weapons off our streets is something both gun owners and those opposed to guns could both agree on.
Brian Hodder works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at email@example.com.