Canada’s gun-control law a step in right direction, says Polytechnique massacre survivor

“Huge step in the right direction,” says Heidi Rathjen, gun-control advocate and Polytechnique massacre survivor, as Canada’s gun-control law, Bill C-21, became law just weeks ago. Swidda Rassy reports.

As Canada’s gun-control law – Bill C-21 – became law just weeks ago – one survivor of Montreal’s Polytechnique Massacre says, it’s a step in the right direction, but the fight is not over yet. 

“Bill C-21 is a really good bill,” said gun-control advocate Heidi Rathjen. “It’s not perfect and it’s not complete, but it contains really solid measures.

It’s not everything we wanted, as 70 per cent of Canadians want a total ban on handguns, but it’s certainly a huge step in the right direction and we might get there in the long term with this measure.”

The new law brings in new measures to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers and increases maximum penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking from 10 to 14 years.

“It also contains a freeze on the sale of new handguns,” she said. “So basically, it’s a phase out of the private possession of handguns over the next three or four generations.”

The legislation also includes a ban on assault-style firearms that fall under a new technical definition. It would apply to such guns designed and manufactured after the bill comes into force.

“From our perspective, a definition that makes zero difference. It’s very weak, it’s easily circumventable, and basically nothing’s going to change,” Rathjen said. “In reality, there’s still hundreds of models of assault weapons that are legal, and new models continue to come on the market and that won’t change with this definition so that’s why we say it’s incomplete.”

The federal Conservatives and some gun owners strongly opposed the new the law, arguing that it unfairly punishes responsible gun users instead of targeting criminal gun violence.

“My question is how? I mean, like what the Bill does is it says that if you’re involved in domestic violence, if you’re an abuser, then you shouldn’t be able to own a gun,” Rathjen said. “I don’t see that’s how it’s attacking legal gun owners. Same way that a drunk driver shouldn’t be allowed to drive. I mean, that’s not attacking all drivers.”

Rathjen says the question of assault weapons is not only a public safety measure, but it’s also a symbol of the kind of country we want to have.

“Are they listening to the public? Are they listening to women? Or are they siding with the gun lobby in the gun industry to make these killer weapons that are used in mass shootings legal for private possession, for recreational purposes?”

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