OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau accused the Conservatives Monday of being “in the pocket of the gun lobby,” saying they would no doubt oppose the Liberals’ not-yet-announced gun policy.
Trudeau made the comment during a Waterloo, Ont. media availability — his first time taking reporters’ questions since Friday. Pressed on why his government had not taken tougher action against handguns and assault-style semi-automatic weapons, the Liberal leader hinted that proposed measures will be introduced “shortly.”
“We recognize, however, that there is more to do,” Trudeau said. “And I can assure you, we will be making announcements further in this campaign about the next steps we are taking to strengthen gun control in this country.”
Watch: Blair says more gun-control action needed
During the 2015 campaign, Trudeau campaigned on reforming laws to “make it harder for criminals to get, and use, handguns and assault weapons.” In June, new reforms to enhance screening and strengthen the regime of legal sales became law.
Conservatives have long indicated that they will stand against any kind of ban on specific weapons, claiming new restrictions would only hurt law-abiding gun owners.
Spokesperson Simon Jefferies said it’s unclear who Trudeau is referring to when he claimed Conservatives are “in the pocket” of gun lobbyists.
“Is it hunters? Farmers? Sports shooters?” Jefferies wrote in an email, adding that Scheer and the party ”will always stand up for law-abiding, responsible firearm owners.”
He pointed to the Conservatives’ “three-pronged strategy” to “actually reduce crime” in Canada. It doesn’t propose prohibiting handguns. “A blanket handgun ban will do nothing to curb gun violence and will instead only make criminals out of law-abiding firearms owners,” the plan states.
The Liberal government tapped Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief, to spearhead efforts to explore possible bans earlier this year. By mid-June, after months of consultation and study, Blair said he supported the idea of a national ban on assault-style weapons but not on handguns.
He acknowledged the issue as complex, considering “a number of very responsible handgun owners in this country who obey all of our rules.” Theft, smuggling, and Canada’s proximity to the United States— the “largest handgun arsenal in the world” — are considerations, he explained.
“We may ask [handgun owners] to undertake additional measures to secure their weapons to make sure that they’re not vulnerable to being stolen,” Blair told reporters in June.
A weekend shooting in Mississauga, Ont. that left a teenager dead and five people wounded has placed gun violence on federal politicians’ campaign radars again.
On Monday, six days into the federal campaign, Trudeau called the measures his government introduced to reform the Firearms Act “significant.”
Gun control advocacy group, PolySeSouvient, welcomed the tougher background checks in May, but said in a release, that most of the changes the Liberals brought are “weaker than what one would expect from a majority government elected on the basis of a pro-gun control platform” and said they suggested “obvious concessions to the gun lobby.”
The debate over a possible handgun ban has not only reinforced the division between Liberals and Conservatives in the most recent parliamentary sitting, the topic had also been a source of tension among Grit MPs in lead up to the election.
Liberal rural caucus chair Francis Drouin told The Hill Times in March that were a handgun ban introduced it would certainly be an “issue” in his Ontario riding.