JOHNSON – How we can finally resolve the gun control issue in Canada
By DAVID JOHNSON
SO THIS PAST WEEK, the Federal Government backed down from amendments to Bill C21.
Bill C21 … the original bill that was hyper specific about the banning of handguns, which last October began as a ‘freeze’ on sales, purchase or transfer of handguns. There was no mention whatsoever of any other gun being affected by C21.
Opposition including Conservatives at the time, criticized the freeze, saying the move targets law-abiding citizens and businesses rather than illegal and smuggled guns. Most Canadians heard that one and said “well … ya … ok”. This isn’t America.
Beyond that, it was the usual political rhetoric of saying ‘sure … today handguns, tomorrow your liberty’ … but at the end of the day, opposition didn’t have much real argument with the original Bill. Its hard to ignore well known crime statistics regarding handguns.
Then in December, a Parliamentary Committee meeting agenda included some last-minute amendments that dislodged a very simple Bill and made the entire issue much, much more complex. Liberal MP Paul Chiang tacked on proposed changes after the Bill had passed second reading.
These amendments were long and involved, and included long guns in a variety of different ways;
– A ban on any rifle that could accept any more than 5 rounds in a magazine … whether or not it had such a magazine. This alone scoops up many hunting rifles. The volume of everyday hunting rifles that ‘could’ accept a magazine that ‘could’ hold more than 5 rounds … is wide.
– A ban on any gun with a muzzle over 20mm, which would ban everything from antique blunderbusses to the Nine O’clock Gun in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, and even t-shirt cannons at hockey games might fall afoul, as it doesn’t seem to differentiate in this section how powerful it can or can not be.
Then there were a few added on, to try to catch weapons that may or not be defined as a ‘assault-style firearm’ … but the details lacked any comprehensive understanding of what such a gun is or is not, as there is no clear legal definition in Canadian law or The Firearm Act, beyond the word ‘automatic’.
There is no mention in existing law of ‘semi-automatic’, ‘assault style’ or delineation of what is a ‘military firearm’ in relation to non military use in Canada … in the Firearm Act or any other Law in Canada.
Sure, there’s lots of regulations and restrictions in the Act, but no clear set of definitions defining a single firearm item or characteristic an item might have as a member of any defined class.
These amendments tried in one fell-swoop to define firearm terms and then ban the ones that fell into these poorly defined definitions … and it did that really badly, throwing huge confusion in the world of Firearm owners and associations as to whether or not their gun is allowed or not.
Even to the extent that it still is unknown if a Mossberg 702 .22 Plinkster long rifle, used as a hunting and target-shooting rifle, would be prohibited as a result of C-21 legislation.
This is a widely used and available .22 calibre hunting gun, and does not seem to run afoul of the new amendments, but in fact, one version of the Plinkster (“plinking” refers to shooting tin cans) is individually listed for prohibition in the amendments.
Literally banning it, yet the explaining legislation can’t explain why.
That’s just one example of many caught up by these amendments.
There is no excuse in discussing and making rules for a given populous, if they are so badly created that you alienate your targeted audience with complete confusion.
It seems that it was a very poorly thought out and very poorly written attempt to try to ban weapons that even hunters don’t want in our society, actual military AK-47’s, mortars, fully and semi-automatic rifles, actual machine guns and the like.
Yes, we do have a system of ‘restricted weapons’, where guns like these need to be stored, used and traded under a very strict set of regulations, but the desire to take it further and outright ban these weapons is what many Canadians would consider to be a reasonable next step to combat the reality that these weapons are being used in mass shooting crimes.
It is up to a society on the whole to decide that “no … you can’t even own one of those, even if we trust that you personally, will use it properly” … and this is where Canada has gotten to with weapons of war being owned … even highly restricted … by its citizens.
We have seen too much, both here, south of the border and around the world to not look at what New Zealand did in the aftermath of their mass shooting, and decide that it is time to do the same.
But … trying to do this by piggy-backing an amendment onto a simple handgun Bill … ain’t the way to do this, and it appears that the federal government realised this, so last week backed down on the amendment package.
So today, the original handgun C-21 Bill stands and will likely be voted on at some point, and will probably pass in the House.
The question becomes, will the Liberals try again? Well … the most recent comments suggest that they are already loading up for another go at it.
They already said that they are going to consult with the firearms community before reviving any new prohibition against guns that none of us want available to potential mass shooters.
That’s a good plan, bring in the very groups that are capable of defining these weapons properly. What matters is the metrics and procedures that Government needs to keep in mind and use on the way towards legislation.
– They need to decide how to categorize various attributes that any gun can have, and determine definitions that can be used to draw the line between acceptable or not acceptable, and add to the Act those definitions, so laws can be written around them. This means coming up with agreed upon and established terms that defines every gun as well as define actual class characteristics.
– Included in this is a definition of the kind of gun loosely called ‘assault rifle’ or as the Liberals have taken to call them ‘assault-style firearm’ … even though experience has taught any government to stay far away from those particular words as they literally don’t mean anything. Obviously work needs to be done to decide just what to call guns like these, and what are the attributes that places any gun in this category.
– Once this definition work is done and everyone is happy with it, entrench it in the Firearms Act.
– Then use the Act to design prohibitions, restrictions and legislation in accordance with the law as written, to deal with societies needs as it changes.
Trying to jam all this together into single acts of Parliament will never work properly when the basic issue is one of contention and active discussion across the country.
The Liberals need to slow down a bit and set up a process to take place, to get the work done … so all of us can accept just what is a hunting rifle and what is a weapon of war.
If you asked me, it seems as simple as; up to a certain numerical velocity, a hunting rifle is a long gun that requires the user to manually pull back a bolt mechanism and then manually push a new round into the chamber, one at a time, with a limited magazine … say less than 5 for arguments sake, but I would defer that number detail to rifles and shotguns that are ubiquitous in actual Canadian hunters’ lock boxes.
At the end of the day, this is saying that no form of semi or automatic bullet loading can be defined as a hunting rifle. Anything else is prohibited.
Maybe that’s a little draconian,
maybe a little too ‘catch all’ in essence,
but maybe it’s a place to start.
David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.
Very Well Written. The last two statements are logical, potentially effective as a solution to all current firearm problems. Good Luck.
Law-abiding citizens that have taken training, met onerous regulatory requirements and legally purchased handguns through legitimate means are not the problem, nor will they ever be. Criminals, punks, and gangsters using smuggled non-registered firearms, and the lack of political will to enforce laws already in place are. This lazy government consistently goes for the easy low-hanging fruit, in this case, citizens that meet all regulatory requirements, are subject to a criminal records check 365 days a year, and have broken no laws, rather than getting at the real issue, doing the hard work, un-tying the hands of police, and giving enforcement officials the resources and tools to do their jobs with. Our revolving door so-called criminal justice system is no help, with people found possessing illegal non-registered firearms and drugs released regularly either on the spot, or on a promise to appear. This government is so lazy and cavalier with taxpayer’s money that it deems at least $15 billion, perhaps as much as $27 billion, in COVID overpayments and wage subsidies “not worth the effort” to attempt to recover, and yet is willing to spend gobs more of your money on yet another virtue-signaling expensive and unnecessary buyback program. Yes, by all means, let’s do the hard work and get criminals and the illegal non-registered guns they use off the street, but leave law-abiding citizens alone, for once.
Very well written.
I am still wondering how a need, recognized by all, to get the guns out of the hands of drug gangs and to put an end to the smuggling of firearms degenerated into thoroughly annoyed indigenous hunters potentially losing their hunting rifles. Shouldn’t we be discussing the best ways to check shipping containers or arguing if the technology to detect firearms buried in the back of a semi-trailer will damage the fruit or cause lettuce leaves to wilt? Perhaps a class of “enforced” firearms prohibition order that allows any violent or habitual criminal that receives one to be randomly searched as well as their dwelling.
I fear my government is acting like a bunch of political hacks muddying the water so we cannot see how shallow their ideas are.
You know I am a centrist/liberal but I am in total agreement with the eloquent comment you have hereby written, Ken.
Already the discourse has shifted from “getting the guns off the street” and away from criminals, which would take some innovative thinking, to removing “dangerous” firearms from law abiding people deemed fit and proper to own them by the RCMP.
Did he give any thought to the fact that organizations of professionals (National Police Federation, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police) have said the gun bans are not a good use of effort and resources? It appears to me there has been a propaganda of fear spread so the banning appears to be useful.