Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Maxime Bernier wants to loosen Canada’s notoriously tight gun laws, and he wants to start with the AR-15, which currently is restricted to law enforcement and the military.
The Quebec Member of Parliament (MP) and former foreign affairs minister in the previous Conservative government said he will introduce new gun legislation if elected Conservative leader and then prime minister of Canada.
In an email to supporters, Bernier wrote, “With my firearms legislation, many popular guns like the AR-15 would become non-restricted, because gun legislation wouldn’t be based on fear anymore.”
Canada’s gun control laws are among the toughest in the democratic world. Until the legislation was repealed by Bernier’s Conservative government, a long-gun registry severely restricted the ownership and use of rifles and shotguns.
Bernier is perceived as so strong on gun ownership rights that the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights has given him an A-plus rating. The group’s president, Rod Giltaca, emphasized that it does advocate on behalf of political parties but also provides information on gun control policy in Canada.
The perceived front-runner in the Conservative leadership race, Kevin O’Leary, has not always earned high marks from gun owners. They remember an interview that was broadcast by an Ottawa radio station in which O’Leary described his experience firing the AR-15 at an FBI range and how he didn’t believe the rifle was suitable for broad use.
“That is a weapon that is just used to kill everybody in the room you’re in. Who should have that? Nobody,” he said.
Nicolas Johnson, editor of TheGunBlog.ca, calls that attitude elitist.
“He’s telling us, ‘I’ve just done this thing, but nobody else should be allowed to do it’, which sounds like a double-standard,” Johnson told the Canadian Press.
At least one other leadership candidate would agree with O’Leary and fully supports Canada’s gun control. Ontario MP Michael Chong called Bernier’s position on the AR-15 “extreme” and “U.S.-style,” meaning “right-wing” in Canadian political parlance.
Chong describes the AR-15 in a context that is limited to mass murder.
“Proposing to make the AR-15 unrestricted — a variant of which was used at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut to kill 20 children aged 6 and 7 and six adults in 2012 — is an extreme policy,” he said in an email.
“Canadians do not want to adopt U.S.-style firearm policies.”
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