OTTAWA – The father of a police officer who was gunned down in Quebec is angered and disappointed by the Liberal government’s firearms bill, saying there is nothing in the legislation that would have prevented his son’s death.
Michel LeRoux’s son Thierry was shot dead in February 2016 by a man who then took his own life.
In a letter this week to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, LeRoux says the current laws are flawed because they allowed his son’s killer to have firearms despite a history of violence and psychological troubles.
Under the current application and renewal process, personal information helps determine whether someone is eligible for a firearms licence. In addition, “continuous eligibility screening” means criminal behaviour can be flagged for the federal chief firearms officer for review and possible investigation.
Federal statistics show 2,223 firearms licences were revoked in 2016, with mental health concerns figuring in 424 of these.
The federal bill introduced last month would expand the scope of background checks on those who want to acquire a gun. Instead of just the five years immediately preceding a licence application, personal history questions would cover a person’s entire lifetime.
The government says this measure will help keep guns out of the wrong hands.
LeRoux, who met Goodale last November, says in his letter that while the step is welcome, it would not have changed anything in his 26-year-old son’s case, since authorities allowed the killer to have guns despite being aware of his mental-health troubles.
Goodale is deeply sorry for LeRoux’s loss and wants to carefully consider LeRoux’s letter before responding, said Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for the minister.
Goodale would also like to talk to provincial counterparts and others about the notion of requiring medical professionals to advise authorities about people with mental illness who are likely to put the lives of others in danger, Bardsley added.
LeRoux says police had many interactions with his son’s killer and even confiscated his weapons at one point, only to return them due to what LeRoux considers a gap in the law.
“Do you really think that maintaining the status quo is in the public’s interest?” he says in the letter, made available to The Canadian Press.
There is still time to “bring in significant amendments” to the bill that would help protect the public, LeRoux adds.
Bardsley said the government looks forward to hearing feedback from a wide range of witnesses during the committee hearings and that it is “open to constructive proposals to strengthen the bill.”
The legislation has been criticized by other gun-control advocates as too weak, while some firearms owners have called the bill an attempt to revive the ill-fated long-gun registry.
Under the legislation, gun retailers would be required to keep records of firearms inventory and sales for at least 20 years – a measure intended to assist police in investigating gun trafficking and other crimes.
The bill would also require the purchaser of a hunting rifle or shotgun to present a firearms licence, while the seller would have to ensure its validity.