Dan Albas

COLUMN: Examining the federal firearms ban

Public has raised questions about Prime Minister’s decision to ban certain firearms

I do not normally issue a “spoiler alert” in my weekly reports however this week I will focus on the recently announced semi-automatic rifle ban from the Prime Minister.

For those with no interest in this subject, this report may be of little value to you.

Aside from strong personal opinions on this recent announcement, I have also been hearing some confusion and misunderstanding that I will attempt to clarify.

From a misunderstanding perspective, many citizens have correctly pointed out that military assault rifles in Canada have long been illegal.

It has been suggested by many that the Liberal government is intentionally attempting to mischaracterize certain semi-automatic rifles, selected for this ban, as being “military grade” or “assault style” and using other terms that have no legal definition in Canada.

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This is true. Many of the terms used to describe the rifles chosen for this ban do not exist within the Canada Firearms Act.

Another point of confusion has been the headline: “Trudeau announces ban on 1,500 types of ‘assault-style’ firearms”.

While I have already referenced the misleading “assault style” term that does not exist within the Firearms Act, the number “1,500 firearms” has also led to confusion.

There are essentially 11 different types of semi-automatic rifles that have been arbitrarily selected for this ban.

Because these 11 types of rifles are manufactured by several different manufacturers, and in multiple different configurations, there are potentially 1,500 different variations of these core 1 rifle designs affected by this ban.

As for why these 1 rifle designs were selected by Prime Minister Trudeau, the PM has stated: “These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time,” Trudeau said. “There is no use and no place for such weapons in Canada.”

CBC has also reported that the Prime Minister has “acknowledged that most firearms owners are law-abiding citizens, he said hunters don’t need this sort of firepower.”

The last statement reported from CBC is of interest.

The semi-automatic rifle ban is not being done through a bill nor being debated and voted on in Parliament.

Instead the Prime Minister has decided to carry out this ban through an executive regulation change, known as an Order In Council.

Having now read this particular order, buried at the bottom is this sentence: “Recognizing that some Indigenous and sustenance hunters could be using previously non-restricted firearms for their hunting and may be unable to replace these firearms immediately, the Amnesty Order includes provisions for the limited use of these firearms for such purposes.”

This statement clearly acknowledges that in actual fact, these rifles are used for hunting and provides an amnesty to allow Aboriginal hunters to continue to use them accordingly.

The Liberal government has yet to explain this contradiction.

The rifle ban also proposes a “buy back” plan where owners of these restricted rifles will, at some point in the future, be able to receive financial compensation for “selling” these rifles to the government at a currently unknown rate.

There is also a two-year amnesty for owners of these restricted rifles, while the government determines future steps on how the buy-back will work.

From my perspective, this issue should come before Parliament where it can be studied at committee stage.

Committee stage review is a critically important part of a bill’s progress, where experts and other affected groups can provide evidence on the proposed piece of legislation.

Ultimately evidence can lead to amendments and that is how legislation can be improved to better serve Canadians.

It also allows democratically elected MP’s the opportunity to vote on such a bill, so citizens can hold us to account.

As it currently stands, this Order in Council allows none of these things to occur and that is not how our Parliament should deal with this topic, in a transparent and democratically accountable manner.

My question this week: Do you agree?

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.

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