Last week’s mass killing at a gay nightclub in Orlando likely won’t help his lobbying efforts.
The AR-15, as it is also known, was first reported to be the weapon used by the gunman in Orlando. It has since come to light that the shooter actually used a different gun.
Bennett, who lives in Corner Brook, initiated an e-petition to have the AR-15’s current classification as a restricted weapon changed. British Columbian MP Bob Zimmer presented the petition, which garnered a record 25,249 supportive signatures, to the House of Commons on May 13.
Since then, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has said the federal government will eventually formally reply to the petition, but has no intention of changing the AR-15’s current classification.
The decision to classify the AR-15 as restricted was made by the RCMP. Goodale said politicians should respect the RCMP’s judgment on this.
Bennett doesn’t think the police will recommend a reclassification.
“(RCMP Commissioner) Bob Paulson is not gun-friendly, so I doubt he will ever get on the bandwagon for that,” said Bennett.
The semi-automatic AR-15, noted Bennett, has the same technology in it as a non-restricted semi-automatic shotgun — like ones used by duck hunters, for instance. He said the AR-15’s classification is not based on reason, but on emotion and the gun’s militaristic appearance.
If anyone who owns one of the 90,000 AR-15s in Canada decided to use their weapon to kill people, said Bennett, labeling it a restricted weapon is not going to stop them.
“I’m all for taking guns out of criminal hands, but it seems that when stuff like this (Orlando shooting) happens, government will find a way to take guns out of law-abiding citizens’ hands,” said Bennett.
If someone drove a truck into a crowd of people and killed some of them, Bennett said it would not make sense to ban that type of truck. Yet, he added, that is essentially the argument to have the AR-15 considered a restricted weapon.
A story The Western Star did with Bennett prior to the petition being presented generated more than 700 shares on Facebook and numerous comments for and against the gun’s reclassification. Bennett said many of those against making the AR-15 non-restricted are ignorant of what the gun is all about.
“You’re getting stories from a crowd who don’t know anything about it, but act as if they are experts,” he said. “Then, you have the crowd who do know everything about it trying to educate the others and we’re being called gun nuts and all kinds of names.”
He believes the younger generation of gun knowledgeable people will some day make the change in the AR-15’s classification.
“But that will be down the road,” he said.