What The Hell Just Happened In Ottawa? Ctd

The Globe and Mail reports on Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the suspected shooter. He had been named a “high risk traveller” and blocked from leaving the country because of fears that he might become a jihadi:

“He wanted to go back to Libya and study,” [friend Dave] Bathurst said. He urged his friend to make sure study was on his mind and “not something else.” Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau insisted he was only going abroad with the intent of learning about Islam and to study Arabic. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was blocked from fulfilling those plans. Sources say he intended to travel abroad, but he had not been able to secure a valid travel document from federal officials, who have been taking measures to prevent Canadians from joining extremists overseas.

Reid Standish notes that the “attack comes as Canada has ramped up its role in the fight against the Islamic State militant group, though it remains unclear whether the attack has any connection with these recent decision”:

Canada has sent 26 special forces troops to Iraq to serve in an advisory role, and on Oct. 7 Parliament voted in favor of joining U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq. In late September, a video released by the Islamic State’s spokesperson, Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani urged the group’s supporters to kill Canadians and commit domestic attacks on Canadian territory.

Joe Friesen has more context:

For a country that lived through more than a decade of Western anti-terror wars largely without domestic bloodshed, Wednesday’s attack was a potential turning point.

It was the second targeted killing of a Canadian Forces soldier on home soil in a matter of days, raising further questions about the country’s security and intelligence regime, the rise of domestic radicalism and the impact of Canada’s military deployment to the Middle East to combat the Islamic State.

Keating takes a look at gun ownership in Canada:

Canada’s gun laws are still strict compared with America’s—gun owners must get a license from the federal government which requires a gun safety course, and there are more stringent restrictions for more powerful weapons—but by international standards the country is relatively gun-friendly.

Canada has the 13th-largest civilian firearms arsenal in the world according to the 2007 Small Arms Survey, with 30.8 firearms per 100 people. (The U.S. is first with 88.8 per 100.) It suffers about 0.51 firearm homicides per 100,000 people compared to 2.97 in the United States. While safe by the standards of the U.S. or Latin America, Canada does have significantly more gun violence than countries like Germany, France, and Australia.

He suspects that yesterday’s incident, “involving a shooter armed with a double-barreled shotgun, may prompt another round of soul searching”:

Ironically, what the Conservative government calls a “common sense” package of gun control reforms that would “ease restrictions on transporting firearms, make firearms-safety courses mandatory for first-time gun owners and prevent people convicted of spousal assault from legally owning guns,” was on the docket to be debated in the House of Commons [yesterday], before the shooting started.

Arthur Bright provides his own rundown on Canadian gun laws:

Unlike the US, where Washington sets some gun laws and others are set by the individual states, Canada’s gun laws are predominantly the domain of the federal government in Ottawa.

Under Canadian law, there are three categories of firearms: prohibited, restricted, and non-restricted. Prohibited firearms include short-barreled handguns, sawed-off shotguns and rifles, and automatic weapons. Restricted firearms include all handguns that do not fall under the “prohibited” class, as well as semi-automatic weapons with barrels shorter than 47 cm (18.5 inches). In addition, specific guns can be designated by regulation as prohibited or restricted. Large-capacity magazines are generally prohibited, regardless of the class of firearm they are used in.

Note that despite the use of the term “prohibited,” prohibited firearms are not illegal. Rather they are governed under a stricter set of regulations. Non-restricted firearms are any rifles and shotguns that do not fall under either of the other categories.

A Canadian reader joins the thread:

I work at a government building downtown, and it was definitely a sad, surreal day. Most of downtown was in lockdown mode until mid-late afternoon, with some sections just opening up in the evening. A few thoughts, outside the real tragedy of the soldier who was killed and the shock running through people in the city:

Twitter can be great, but it can also be terrible. Throughout the day, we were monitoring the news and numerous media outlets were reporting just tons of unconfirmed shit that was really unnerving that turned out to be false or at best unsubstantiated. A shooter on a roof somewhere, a shooting inside and/or near a shopping mall downtown, a shooter or two at large, a high-speed motorcycle chase on a highway, etc. etc. I get it, and it’s so customary now … everyone wants to report in real time, but there was so much noise that just served to stress people out even more.

It’s hard to understand how this guy got inside the Parliament building with a gun, especially at this time. I trust more will be written about this in the days to come, but one reporter tweeted that the British Columbia Legislature along with other Legislatures had received information “from Ottawa” earlier in the week that they should be more safety aware. In our building, we experienced noticeably more stringent ID checks starting on Monday this week, which may have been a coincidence, but something I am going to check with colleagues in other government departments. You have to believe relevant security forces were aware of the latest reporting on that unbelievable White House breach. In the press conference this afternoon, the police were a bit vague on the threat level, only saying Parliament Hill was at the same level it has been for a long time now. It just makes me feel like governments can institute all the measures in the world but it comes down to people doing their jobs at the optimal level (and there was a really positive example of that today as well).

I really hope there’s not an over-reaction to this. Politicians are going to try and exploit this for various purposes, which is inevitable. The Prime Minister made a point of saying that an attack on soldiers and our institutions (in this case, attempted attack on politicians) is an attack on ALL Canadians, and I understand why he’s saying that, but the public mood is necessarily going to be less fearful than it would have been had the attack(s) targeted civilians (for example at a mall). He also said Canada will not be intimidated, which is great, but I’m pretty sure he’s at least partly foreshadowing an attack on any opposing politician who criticizes Canada’s proposed engagement in Iraq, ongoing engagement in Afghanistan, etc. That stuff is going to happen, but I at least hope that Ottawa won’t go into some hyper security mode that makes it a less open and accessible city.

Basically, it was a sad, shitty and confusing day. But it could have been a lot worse, and I just hope the people who live here and in the rest of the country won’t give into the fear that so much of the media and politicians thrive on.