The response to the federal government’s ban of 1,500 “military-grade” firearms announced May 1 continues to be a hot-button issue. In the Peace region and Fort St. John, there has been no shortage of people speaking out against the issue.
“Once again this Liberal government has shown their contempt for our outdoor community. After promising our lawful firearms owners that the ban would not include firearms used for hunting purposes, we now know this just simply isn’t the case,” MP Bob Zimmer said in a statement on May 5.
The common them from the community is that in tying the ban to the recent mass shooting in Nova Scotia, the federal government has missed the mark and been disingenuous.
“The club, to put it politely, is exceedingly disappointed the Prime Minister would use the Nova Scotia incident for political expediency and an order in council prohibiting firearms that were once unrestricted and restricted,” said North Peace Rod and Gun Club President Guy LaHaye.
“By using an order in council the Prime Minister has bypassed his parliament and the whole democratic process for political expediency, and I find that a shameful act.”
Steve Hewitt, owner of Backcountry, agrees.
“Certainly our federal government is missing the mark. The true issue is dealing with an aspect of human nature, mental instability and those things,” Hewitt said. “A lot more effort and funding could be put into helping people who have expressed those issues in the past.”
One common argument used to oppose the ban is that the guns used in the Nova Scotia shooting were obtained illegally, and reportedly obtained across the American border.
“The recent Nova Scotia mass shooter was not a legal gun owner. The poster firearm of Trudeau’s ban, the AR-15, has never been used in a Canadian mass shooting,” said community member Alan Yu. “It’s interesting to note that the guns used by the two B.C. teens who shot three people near our area last summer are not in the ban.”
Turning innocents into criminals
LaHaye thought it was unfair to tie the Nova Scotia shooting to the 1,500 members of the Rod and Gun Club, all legally registered gun owners.
“Firearm owners have an impeccable record of safety and of following the law. To lump the legal firearms owner into the same bit as what happened in Nova Scotia is really an insult,” said LaHaye.
A big concern is that the decision to ban these guns could turn law-abiding citizens into offenders.
“They are changing the laws to turn innocent people into criminals, and it’s a real shame it’s happening in our country,” said Hewitt.
Zimmer says the regulations included in the ban — which include having “a 20 mm bore or greater…and the capacity to discharge a projectile with a muzzle energy greater than 10 000 joules,” will include guns used for duck hunting and sport-shooting.
“Had the Liberal government followed the Parliamentary process, the inclusion of these hunting and sport-shooting firearms could have been brought to their attention well before it became the law of the land,” said Zimmer. “Instead, the Liberal government has once again made our lawful outdoor community feel like criminals. This is unacceptable.”
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has assured Canadians that the ban will not affect hunting and target shooting.
“These guns have no legitimate civilian purpose,” Blair said. “I want to assure hunters and farmers and target shooters in this country that nothing that we are doing today or we’ll do in the future is intended to interfere with this lawful, responsible and legal activity.”
Local effects of the ban
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the country both economically and socially, LaHaye thinks this is an ill-suited time for the federal government to be passing an order in council of this nature.
“The Prime Minister has to make sure he’s not portraying 1.5 million citizens who own firearms in the same way as those mentally ill individuals with illegally procured firearms. I think he has broken that trust and has thrown down the gauntlet at a time where the country can least afford it,” LaHaye said. “Shame on you, it’s time to stop making political points and time to Prime Minister-up: we need real leadership right now, this is not a popularity contest.”
For now, it remains to be seen what impact the ban will have on the sport-shooting industry, but LaHaye said the Rod and Gun Club is not only for shooting purposes, but for promoting fish and wildlife conservation, humane hunting, and education programs for all ages.
“Our club advocated for recreational opportunities, and we are dependant on our members to do those things. My concern is, heading into the near future, how will the ban affect that?” asked LaHaye.
Hewitt declined to comment on how the gun ban will affect his business.
The federal government has announced a two-year buy-back period, for owners to get rid of the weapons that fall under the ban, but details of that program are still to come.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.