Firearms advocates are calling out the Liberals for stoking fear and misinformation as they take aim at Erin O’Toole’s approach to firearms ownership.

“Desperation is causing the Liberals to do and say awful things,” said Tracey Wilson, vice-president of public relations for the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights.

During the TVA debate Thursday night and in the days since, the Liberals have been accusing O’Toole of pursuing American-style gun access and planning to legalize “assault weapons.”

Liberal candidate Bill Blair said O’Toole has “an allegiance to the gun lobby,” which he cast as “proxies to the NRA in the U.S.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth, according to Wilson.

“We’re a group of RCMP vetted gun owners who want fair and effective legislation for gun owners, and legitimate work to reduce actual crime,” she said.

Blair said in a statement Friday that O’Toole lied to Canadians by promising to maintain the ban on assault rifles during the French leaders’ debate on Thursday. 

“Canadians overwhelmingly support strong gun control measures in our society,” said Blair. “Erin O’Toole doesn’t.”

In fact, O’Toole was referring to the 1977 ban on genuine assault rifles, those capable of shooting multiple rounds of ammunition with a single trigger pull. The Conservative platform vows to repeal Bill C-71 and Liberals’ May 2020 order-in-council prohibiting more than 1,500 types of hunting and sport shooting firearms the Liberals say are “assault rifles.”

The Conservatives say they would also update firearms legislation by introducing a simplified classification system for guns to avoid arbitrary reclassifications. 

The Liberal government’s May 2020 order-in-council set a two year amnesty period for the newly prohibited firearms, by which point Canadians must either sell the guns back to the government or have them disabled. The amnesty expires in eight months, though the government’s promised buyback program still has not been rolled out.

Wilson said the Liberals support restricting legal gun owners because it is fast and easy, and convinces low information voters that action has been taken against gun crime. She claimed a ban on semi-automatic firearms will not improve public safety. 

The Conservatives have committed to tackle gun crime by going after gun smugglers, as well as cracking down on bulk purchases of firearms, amending provisions of the Criminal Code on unauthorized importing, and supporting specialized enforcement against illegal firearms. 

O’Toole said he would not repeal the ban on assault rifles on Friday. He accused the Liberals of trying to import the divisive U.S. debate about gun rights into Canada. 

According to Wilson, firearms have a rich history in Canada, and ownership of them need not come at the expense of public safety.

“Guns have been a part of Canada since before Confederation,” she said. “I want to live in a country governed by people with legitimate interest in reducing crime, holding criminals responsible for their actions and trust in the good.”

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