Project Ploughshares Alerts Prime Minister to International Implications of Bill C-391

Tasneem Jamal Conventional Weapons

Open letter on Bill C-391, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (registration of firearms).

September 14, 2010

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Liberal Party
Jack Layton, Leader of the New Democrat Party
Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Québécois

Re: Bill C-391

On March 31, 2009, I wrote to you concerning Bill C-301, a Private Member’s Bill related to the Firearms Act. With this letter I want to reiterate our concern, this time about Bill C-391, on the international implications of amending the Firearms Act.

Canada has been a leading proponent of a global instrument to control the spread and misuse of small arms: the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UN PoA).

Appropriate domestic regulation over the sale, possession and use of civilian weapons is integral to the UN PoA, especially with three-quarters of global small arms estimated to be in the hands of civilians. The UN PoA calls for measures at the national level including, in Paragraph II.9, an undertaking by States “to ensure that comprehensive and accurate records are kept for as long as possible on the manufacture, holding and transfer of small arms and light weapons under their jurisdiction” (emphasis added). If passed Bill C-391 will reverse important commitments Canada has made to international norms as embodied in the UN PoA. The erosion of Canada’s domestic firearms standards would in turn weaken the impact of Canada’s calls for improved national standards elsewhere.

The gun registry is a tool to monitor, not punish, gun ownership. It enables police to take preventative actions and remove firearms where there is a risk and reduces the diversion of legal guns to illegal markets. It is universally acknowledged that most illegal guns start as legal guns.

We urge you and the elected members of your parties to consider these international commitments when amending or voting on Bill C-391.

John Siebert
Executive Director

Spread the Word