An AR-15 is on federal government ban list on certain assault-style weapons. Photo: flickr

Okanagan-Shuswap gun club leaders react to Canadian government’s firearm ban

Restricted firearm owners are disappointed in the federal government’s ban

Firearms enthusiasts in the Okanagan and Shuswap expressed their disappointment with an order from the federal government which makes 1,500 types of previously-legal firearms unlawful overnight.

Daniel Fritter, the president of the Joe Rich Sportsman’s Association said the ban will not make Canadians safer. Fritter, who is also the publisher of Caliber Magazine, said in Canada less than one per cent of firearm-related crimes are committed by licensed gun owners.

“If you are a gang member who is looking to obtain a firearm, but doesn’t have a license, so you must obtain it illegally, nothing Justin Trudeau said changes anything,” said Fritter. “Instead this hurts guys like me who have a $6,000 gun that is now a paperweight.”

To obtain a Possession and Acquisition license and own a restricted firearm, individuals must have passed the firearms safety course and are subject to frequent background checks.

“The most tightly regulated population in Canada are licensed restricted gun owners,” explained Fritter. “One of the components of this license is continual eligibility checks, you can’t ever have been charged with a violent crime or assault. As a gun owner, doesn’t matter if you own an AR-15 or a hunting rifle if you get in a bar fight on Friday night and you are charged with assault the police will suspend your license and seize your firearm.”

READ MORE: Feds ban more than 1,500 assault-style rifles in Canada

Don Williams, treasurer of the Armstrong Fish and Game Association, also believed the ban will be ineffective if illegal firearms are still making their way into the hands of criminals.

“Unless you can stop the illegal firearms and persecute people who use firearms illegally in the pursuit of crime, you haven’t achieved anything by punishing everyone else who follows the law, has all the permits and goes through all the classes that you have to go through to be a legal gun owner in Canada,” Williams said.

Ban is a disappointment

Penticton Shooting Sports Association president Christian Scott agreed with Fritter and Williams stating he is “very disappointed” and “saddened” by the Canadian government’s decision.

The ban includes guns that have been used in past Canadian shootings, such as the Ruger Mini-14 which was used in the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in Montreal in 1989, the M14 semi-automatic which was used in the 2014 Moncton shooting, the Beretta CX4 Storm which was used in the Dawson College shooting and the CSA-VZ-58 which the gunman attempted to use in the Quebec Mosque shooting.

“Law-abiding gun owners are not committing these crimes, these crimes are being committed by criminals who have no regard for the law in the first place,” said Scott. “So more laws and more restrictions are not going to help.”

The announcement by the federal government comes after the worst mass killing in Canada, where a gunman murdered 22 people in Nova Scotia on April 18. Investigators in the case stated they believe the the guns used were not obtained legally and Gabriel Wortman, the man beleived to be responsible, did not have the license necessary to acquire firearms in Canada.

During the fall 2019 election campaign, the Liberals said guns designed to inflict multiple human casualties have no place in Canada.

“He was bent on killing people, all the gun laws in the world wouldn’t have stopped him from doing what he did,” said Scott, about the recent Nova Scotia shooting.

“He was strictly prohibited, so no gun laws would have made a difference for what happened in Nova Scotia.”

Salmon Arm Fish and Game Club vice president at large Lorne Grigg said legal firearm owners feel especially bad about tragedies involving illegally-obtained firearms like the one that played out in Nova Scotia.

“It puts a stain on the whole group,” Grigg said.

READ MORE: Probe into mass killing in Nova Scotia continues as province grapples with the violence

Impact on firearm industry

“This ban will greatly hurt the firearm industry,” said Fritter.

“I will stop short of saying this ban will cripple the industry. It has a bigger impact than COVID-19, all the slowdown and closures we have seen since COVID that have forced gun ranges and stores to close, that hurt the industry but this hurts many times more. Maybe four or five times more.

My own business in the last five years has shrunk about 30 per cent due to the continuous threat of gun bans.”

Ryan Pat is the owner of Monashee Outdoors in Armstrong, which sells new and used firearms. His current stock doesn’t include any of the firearms listed in the new ban, but he said he did have an order for AR-15 -style rifles on the way.

As far as regulations go, Pat said the rules that were in place before the ban were stringent enough.

“I’m from Calgary and I spent a lot of time around on the prairies talking to farmers, and it’s just a tool, and in the hands of a responsible person there’s nothing wrong with them.”

Shooting sports will also be affected by the ban. Chris Mazotta, a vice president with the Salmon Arm Fish and Game Club said shooting sports events sometimes employ the type of semi-automatic rifles encompassed in the ban and there are not many alternatives that will allow some types of competitions to continue.

Mazotta said there will be an economic impact on the community with the loss with the loss of shooting events; a three day International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) event in Salmon Arm last year brought in 120 competitors and the accompanying revenue for local hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

Quoting a statistic from the Canadian Shooting Arms and Ammunition Association, Mazotta’s fellow Salmon Arm Fish and Game Club Official Lorne Grigg said sport shooting is an $8 Billion per year industry in Canada.

Gun violence in Canada

According to Statistics Canada in 2018, there were 249 firearm related homicide victims of which 143 were killed by handguns and two died as a result of a fully-automatic firearm.

Firearm related crime is a regional story, stated the federal government, where the highest rates are in the prairies and territories. In 2017, close to six in 10 (58 per cent) victims of firearm-related violent crime were victimized by a stranger. Which is different than most other types of crime, where the accused tends to be known to the victim.

READ MORE: Lower Mainland hunting store sees 200% increase in firearm sales

Compliance with ban

As far as compliance by registered gun owners to hand over their firearms in the two-year amnesty period to comply with the ban, Fritter said the rate will be low.

“I think we will see gun owners registered nothing, hold on to everything they can, grandfather in their AR-15 because they were told they could grandfather it, and then pin all their hopes on the next election and the Conservatives getting in,” said Fritter. “Then the Conservatives will undo everything and gun owners will go back-and-forth in perpetuity.”

Salmon Arm Fish and Game Club President Richard Wale expressed skepticism that fair market value would be offered for the prohibited firearms when the government collects them. He said he believes the buyback program which was announced along with the new prohibitions is certain to cost much more than the government anticipates due to the high values of some of the prohibited guns.

While not all of the newly-prohibited firearms may be surrendered, Wale and Grigg said they will not be welcome on the Salmon Arm Fish and Game Club’s range. The club officials said ranges and gun clubs are regulated by Canada’s chief firearms officer and the RCMP; it is the club directors’ responsibility to make sure prohibited firearms are not used at their range.

READ MORE: 25 firearms, significant amount of cocaine seized in Victoria RCMP drug bust

Order in Council Called ‘Dictatorial’

Wale and Grigg of the Salmon Arm Fish and Game club said the fact the firearm prohibition was passed by an order in council rather than as legislation passing through Parliament leaves lawful gun owners feeling shut out of the process.

Grigg said the ban might have been easier to swallow and might have been made more moderate by the time it was made the law if it had passed through the House of Commons and Senate. He called the use of an order in council a ‘dictatorial’ move by the government.

-With Files from the Canadian Press

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