Project Ploughshares Urges Prime Ministser to Consider International Implications of Bill C-301

Tasneem Jamal Conventional Weapons

Open letter on Bill C-301, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (registration of firearms).

31 March 2009

An Open Letter from Project Ploughshares

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

On behalf of Project Ploughshares, I am writing to urge you to carefully consider the potential international implications of Private Member’s Bill C-301, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (registration of firearms), introduced for First Reading on February 9, 2009 and scheduled for Second Reading on April 1, 2009.

Project Ploughshares has worked since 1976 to advance policies and actions that prevent armed violence and build peace. It is a sad fact that the violence in many of the world’s current armed conflicts is made worse by the ready availability of small arms. We are encouraged that 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 Canada meeting its obligations under the UN PoA.

If passed in its original form, parts of Bill C-301 will reverse important parts of Canada’s commitment to international norms as embodied in the UN PoA. Currently we are waiting to see what if any amendments are being proposed for Bill C-301 when it comes up for second reading.

As originally presented, Bill C-301 proposes to end the registration of long guns such as rifles and shotguns. It also proposes to extend the term of gun licenses from the current five years to 10-12 years for all gun owners, including those who own handguns and assault weapons, thereby reducing the opportunities for screening and ensuring that information is up to date and accurate. These measures would seriously weaken the effectiveness of Canada’s current firearms control regime.

The proposed changes also would undermine Canadian commitment to the UN PoA, which 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). The erosion of Canada’s domestic firearms standards would weaken the impact of Canada’s calls for improved national standards elsewhere.

The gun registry is a tool to monitor gun ownership, not punish gun ownership. It enables police to take preventative actions and remove firearms where there is a risk. It assists police investigations and reduces the diversion of legal guns to illegal markets. (Most illegal guns start out as legal guns.) In a 9 March 2009 letter to the Prime Minister, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police states its opposition to Bill C-301 in its current form. It takes the position that all gun owners need to be licensed, all guns need to be registered, and gun owners need to be accountable for their firearms.

We urge you and the elected members of your parties to consider these concerns when amending
or voting on Bill C-301.

John Siebert
Executive Director

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