Why Gun-Rights Advocates Partner With Islamophobic Groups - 2019-09-11
It's mid-July 2018 and the heat is merciless. The speaker, a middle-aged man with a patchy beard, stands on Parliament Hill atop a makeshift stage of three stacked pallets, microphone in hand. "I'm proud to stand here with a bunch of real Canadians who stand up for real values," he says.
Meet Colin Saunders, field officer of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights (CCFR). Canada's youngest gun lobby group, the CCFR formed in 2015 to fill a unique niche as "the public relations arm of the Canadian firearms community." The new group splintered off from the National Firearms Association—Canada's oldest gun lobby, dating from the 1970s—and has promised to act as a "sophisticated, disciplined," nonpartisan voice promoting gun ownership, with a policy wish list that includes concealed handgun licensing, firearm-friendly self-defence laws, and the legalization of machine guns. The CCFR has a policy of not releasing its membership numbers, even to members, but has claimed a 67 percent membership growth this year.
Since its launch, the CCFR has been busy. Thanks in part to an active social-media presence (members are heavy users of Twitter and Facebook, and the group has a YouTube channel where it posts new videos weekly to some 13,000 subscribers), it has become Canada's most prominent pro-gun group. A Liberal fundraising email in 2018 called it "Canada's NRA." In 2018, the CCFR held two press conferences in Centre Block, the main building of Parliament. It has also expanded its activities to include directly lobbying the government, and claims to employ the country's only full-time, in-house gun lobbyist, Tracey Wilson. Wilson—who is also Saunders' fiancée—meets with members of Parliament, testifies before House and Senate committees, and speaks to media, all to protect the interests of Canadian gun owners.