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In politics, as in most things, timing is everything. And when it comes to Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Patrick Brown’s tweet about the Trudeau government’s “anti-firearm policies,” posted just a few hours before yet another mass school shooting in the United States left 19 young children and two adults dead, it couldn’t have been much worse.
“I will scrap the Firearms Act in its entirety and work with experts — including law-abiding firearm owners — to replace it with a new law that takes protecting our streets just as seriously as (it) does defending the rights of Canadians,” Brown’s tweet read.
Canadians, of course, don’t have some sort of inalienable right to own high-powered weapons the way Americans do with their Second Amendment. The carnage that continues to unfold there on an almost daily basis, and the steadfast refusal by Republican legislators to do anything about it, shows why that difference matters — and why those selling unfettered freedom should be asked more often about the price paid for it.
But the most telling aspect of Brown’s tweet is the fact that it is still up four days later, well after the horror of the Texas shooting has become obvious. It speaks to the power the pro-gun lobby wields within his party and the degree to which its potential leaders feel the need to genuflect in its direction. It also shows Brown is drawing on the recent experience of former leader Erin O’Toole, who faced backlash from his own side in the 2021 election when he tried to walk back the party’s promise to repeal the Liberal assault weapons ban.
Brown is hardly alone on that front. In a recent keynote speech at the Canadian Shooting Sports Association’s “Stick To Your Guns” dinner, Conservative leadership hopeful Pierre Poilievre said his government would “end the attacks on our lawful, licensed, vetted hunters and farmers.” Like Brown, he’s promised to repeal the federal government’s recent assault weapon ban, and it’s safe to assume he intends to actually keep that promise.
The National Firearms Association, which counts upwards of 75,000 Canadians as members, certainly hasn’t given up its fight to loosen Canada’s gun laws. As its president and CEO Sheldon Clare says on the association’s website, “We continue to fight the three failed legs of the gun control stool — licensing of owners, classification of firearms, and registration of firearms. None of those programs serve public safety and are merely barriers to lawful firearm ownership.”
The (latest) Texas shooting should serve as a reminder of the high cost Americans pay for their embrace of firearm ownership, lawful or not. In America, there are now more guns than people, and the unending parade of mass shootings drives those numbers even further out of whack. The only thing that can stop this cycle of mass violence is a bipartisan consensus around gun control, and that seems only slightly less improbable in America right now than Jesus Christ running for president in 2024.
In Canada, though, we can still keep this grotesque genie inside its bottle. That will require the Liberal government to move forward on its election promise to stiffen Canada’s gun control laws even further. Those measures include a ban on the sale or transfer of high-capacity magazines, a requirement that long-gun magazines be permanently altered so they can never hold more than five rounds and increasing maximum penalties for firearm trafficking and smuggling. Recent comments by Justice Minister David Lametti and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendocino suggest those measures are forthcoming.
Keeping the gun-rights genie safely contained will also require us to shine a bright light on the conservative politicians and pundits who continue to put the rights of gun owners ahead of the rights of everyone else.
Opinion: American-style freedom comes with American-style costs, writes columnist @maxfawcett in the wake of this week's Texas school shooting. #GunControl #cdnpoli
Yes, they will complain that now is “not the time” to politicize a tragedy. Never mind, for the moment, that it hasn’t stopped any number of conservatives from doing exactly that, from the writers at The Federalist suggesting the tragedy in Texas makes the “somber case” for homeschooling to Republican legislators once again blaming violent video games and music.
The real question should be: If now isn’t the time to talk about this, when is?
It’s a conversation candidates in the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership race are understandably anxious to avoid. While a 2021 poll showed two-thirds of the Canadian public supported stronger gun control laws, that percentage is far lower among the CPC base. Now, more than ever, those seeking to lead the CPC should be asked to explain that discrepancy. Will the Conservatives commit to putting the rights and freedoms of parents and children ahead of gun owners in this country, or will they continue their party’s tradition of pandering to a lobby group that wants to water down Canada’s gun control laws — and only speaks for a tiny slice of Canadian society?
If they want some help answering that, they should look to James Moore, a former Harper-era cabinet minister and adviser to Dentons and Edelman Canada, who expressed a level of moral clarity that seems lacking in the party he used to represent. “Enough Americans are prepared to witness a certain number of casualties so that they can enjoy limitless access to their dangerous and deadly toys,” he tweeted. “The ‘freedom’ is more important than the freedom from fear of kids in schools.”
This is the real conversation we should be having about freedom in this country. For all the juvenile talk about “gatekeepers” and vaccinate mandates, the (latest) Texas shooting shows how one person’s unfettered freedoms can sometimes brutally curtail those of others. If we want our country to remain as safe as possible, we need to remember American-style freedom comes with American-style costs.