The federal government will study whether Canada should ban handguns and assault weapons, a move that's drawing skepticism and criticism from local MP Bob Zimmer.
In new series of mandate letters to cabinet ministers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ordered border security minister Bill Blair to examine a "full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada" while taking care not to impede the lawful use of firearms.
"Your goals are to ensure that our borders remain secure and to lead cross-government efforts to reduce organized crime," Trudeau writes in his letter.
"You will also play a leading role in our efforts to reduce gun violence."
In a statement issued Wednesday, Zimmer, called the government "hostile" toward law-abiding gun owners.
"The safety of Canadians should be the top priority of any government, however by focusing once again on our highly-vetted firearms owners, the Liberals are ignoring the fact that most firearms used to commit crimes are illegally sourced," Zimmer said.
“What this government is suggesting will do nothing to make our communities safer."
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters in July that the government was prepared to consider tightening handgun laws. The comments came after a deadly shooting in Toronto that saw an 18-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl killed, and 13 others wounded.
"Common sense" solutions are needed, but a blanket ban isn't one of them, Zimmer said.
“It is clear that this government does not believe the rights of law-abiding firearms owners should be protected," he said.
"As a firearms owner myself, I strongly oppose a blanket firearms ban on law-abiding firearms owners and I will continue to push for common sense solutions that focus on the criminal elements behind firearms-related violence including gang activity and cross-border weapons smuggling."
Blair's portfolio covers organized crime on top of border security, and his list of mandated duties also includes working with the U.S. on the Safe Third Country Agreement.
That agreement stipulates that asylum seekers make their refugee claims in the first "safe" country in which they arrive — meaning those who come into Canada at an official land border crossing are sent back to make their claim in the U.S.
The agreement, however, does not cover irregular asylum seekers — those entering Canada at unofficial points, most notably in Quebec.
Blair has also been ordered to focus his efforts on reducing the smuggling of opioids across the border, working with provinces, territories and the U.S.
His work will be supported by the departments of Public Safety, Immigration and Foreign Affairs, the letter says. Blair will report to Public Safety.
— with files from the Canadian Press