04/16/2018 10:27 EDT | Updated 04/16/2018 10:30 EDT

Strengthen Liberals' Gun Control Bill So My Son Won't Have Died In Vain

Bill C-71 must be amended to make sure that someone with a documented history of violence or a dangerous mental health condition can't own a gun.

I sincerely believed, following my Nov. 28 meeting with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, that he would have at least recognized the devastating human cost of certain flaws in Canada's current gun control law, and that in spite of his evasive answers and dispassionate commitment regarding the scope and strength of the upcoming new measures, he would have enough empathy towards victims' families to change something in relation to tragedies committed with legal firearms.

However, there is NOTHING in Bill C-71 that would have changed anything in connection with the violent and preventable death of my son, police officer Thierry LeRoux.

Michel LeRoux
Thierry LeRoux was returning firearms confiscated from an individual with a history of violence when he was shot and killed.

Which flaws am I talking about? Those that allow individuals to legally possess guns despite the fact that authorities are aware of violent or suicidal behaviour, as in the case of the man who killed my son.

Indeed, the police had had many interactions with Mr. Anthony Raymond Papatie. They confiscated his weapons barely five months before the tragic date of Feb. 13, 2016.

But the current law only requires authorities to consider a relatively limited list of very serious risk factors, apart from the most severe crimes. There is nothing in the law that mandates judges or firearms officers to prevent access to guns to those who display one or more of these factors.

Is the Liberal party so afraid of the gun lobby that it prefers to maintain a system that costs the lives of innocent citizens?

So despite Papatie's violent and suicidal past, it was Thierry himself, on the orders of his superiors, who had to return his guns to him, including the one that ended up killing him.

How can anyone not see a problem with this completely legal situation? Does the government really think that maintaining the status quo is in the public's interest?

Even the United States has stricter rules in some respects. For example, some states automatically prohibit gun ownership for anyone subject to a restraining order involving an intimate partner, anyone who has a history of abusing alcohol or drugs, or anyone who suffers from a mental disorder and has a history of violent behaviour against themselves or another.

At the very least, Canadian law should be tightened up to make sure that someone with a documented history of violence or a dangerous mental health condition is automatically banned from owning firearms.

Chris Wattie/Reuters
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale takes part in a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Yet, the only change the minister is proposing with respect to the legal access to firearms is to allow background checks to reach further back in time. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, this wouldn't have changed anything in Thierry's case, since authorities were already well aware of the man's violent past when they decided that he could continue to own guns.

My family and I were counting on the Liberal Party to make sure that Thierry's death was not in vain. I travelled to Ottawa to ask the minister in person to tighten the legal criteria for owning firearms, so that police and courts systematically prioritize public safety rather than gun ownership, especially when it comes to obvious risks. Such measures could have prevented my son's death at the age of 26.

Or, if the governement prefers to rely on better enforcement instead of opting for legislative solutions, where are the grand announcements, multimillion-dollar budgets and expert summits to better identify at-risk individuals, educate the courts and support preventative police interventions? Curiously, it's only in connection with "criminal gangs and guns" that the minister has chosen to make this kind of investment, exactly the way the gun lobby likes it.

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Is the Liberal party so afraid of the gun lobby that it prefers to maintain a system that costs the lives of innocent citizens?

Yet based on public opinion polling, the Trudeau government would have much more to gain by standing firmly on the side of public safety.

There is still time before the final vote to change track and bring in significant amendments to Bill C-71. By the time the bill is adopted, I hope to be able to revise my comments and applaud a government that seeks to protect the public, rather than denounce one that is bowing before the gun lobby, just like its predecessor.

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