rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Gun lobby press release begs Canadians not to blame the gun used in Orlando massacre

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Céline Hervieux-Payette

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

It is impossible not to be appalled by the execrable taste of the National Firearms Association's decision to issue a press release less than 24 hours after last Sunday's horrific mass shooting in Orlando claiming that the tragedy "was not the fault of a particular firearm or explosive."

The NFA is an Edmonton-based organization set up, in its own words, to protect "the rights of responsible gun owners," including the adoption of "fair and practical firearm and property rights legislation." It would be fair to say the NFA models itself on the notorious U.S. National Rifle Association.

There is a time and place to debate the preposterous assertion of those who support wide-open, U.S.-style access to firearms that, as it is frequently phrased, "guns don’t kill people, people kill people." The NFA, by the sound of its statement on Monday, June 13, thought that the first few hours after the largest mass shooting in our next-door neighbour's nightmarish history of murderous gun violence was the right time to make such a point.

Mind you, this is not the first time the NFA has been embroiled in this sort of controversy. It angered Canadians in June 2014 when it issued a similar press release claiming restrictions on firearms are pointless only a day after three RCMP officers had been murdered in New Brunswick by a young man with a military-style rifle.

Published while the police manhunt for Justin Bourque continued, the June 5, 2014, NFA press release said the organization "deplores the terrible actions by a clearly deranged individual," called for "a health care system which could be better enabled to diagnose and treat conditions that put people's lives at risk," and claimed "incidents like these demonstrate the validity of the mounting evidence that none of Canada's firearms control efforts over the past 50 years have had any effect on controlling violence, or otherwise stopping bad people from carrying out their evil deeds."

As Canadian author A.J. Somerset observed in Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun, "if an award were available for the most tasteless press release of the year, the NFA would win it." Indeed, repeatedly!

"Incidents like these demonstrate no such thing," Somerset accurately said of the NFA's claim. And while no one should dispute the need for better mental health care in Canada, as Somerset pointed out, "the NFA made a wild assumption in announcing that a better mental health system would have caught Justin Bourque before he did any harm." In fact, "a court-ordered psychiatric assessment would in fact later conclude that he was entirely sane." (Emphasis added.)

"The NFA's press release was not simply dumb as a wet, dead stump,” Somerset wrote. "It was utterly oblivious to Justin Bourque’s self-evident motives."

"Bourque was no crazed madman acting out some agenda only he could comprehend." He was, the author argued, a creature of an American-style gun culture brought to Canada by groups like the NFA that promote gun ownership as a counter to police and government power.

This is especially so among several groups associated with the Canadian gun lobby if the governments in question happen to hold liberal positions on any number of unrelated issues. Canadian "gun rights advocates" tend to be allied with the political parties of the further right, like the Conservative Party of Canada and the Wildrose Party here in Alberta. Both those parties work with the gun lobby to fashion divisive wedge issues in return for advocating opening up our country to the deadly conditions that prevail in the United States.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that the week before the tragedy in Florida, a Conservative MP in Ottawa was supporting a petition for a military-style weapon similar to the firearm used in the Orlando nightclub massacre to be reclassified as a hunting weapon.

"The AR-15, when handled safely, is a completely innocuous firearm," Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer said. "We support its reclassification back to non-restricted.”

It is a waste of time to attempt to engage in normal discourse with people like those in the NFA, or for that matter in the Conservative and Wildrose parties, on this topic.

All we can do as citizens of Canada is to continue to press our legislators to pass sane restrictions on the ownership of firearms, which accumulating evidence continues to suggest will reduce the number of gun deaths. Obviously, these should include restrictions on firearms that are designed specifically to efficiently kill human beings without genuine "sporting" applications. Zimmer's protestations notwithstanding, the AR-15 and the Sig Sauer MCX used in the Orlando massacre are examples.

Since regulation of firearms and the Criminal Code are federal responsibilities in Canada, this requires pressure on the federal government. A good starting point for such an effort would be to urge the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use Bill S-223 as a model for government legislation to appropriately categorize and control firearms.

S-223 is a private bill that originated in the Senate in March thanks to Québec Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, who has since retired. Because S-223 was introduced by a member who is no longer a Senator, and since the chamber has little democratic legitimacy and moreover is packed with appointed Conservative members determined to blockade the democratically elected government of the land, the bill probably doesn't have much future in its present form.

Still, it is a well-researched and carefully drafted piece of legislation, and should be reintroduced by the government in the House of Commons.

We can persuade the government of Prime Minister Trudeau to do this, or something like it, because Canadians who support sensible restrictions on firearms vastly outnumber Canadian gun lobby, no matter how noisy it is.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.