Members of the Williams Lake Sportsmen’s Association, including its president, are taking aim at the federal Liberal government’s recently billed ‘assault-style’ weapon ban.
The group said it is hoping to educate the public about what they’re calling an undemocratic, overreaching Order in Council from the federal government, which bans close to 2,000 types of firearms in Canada.
WLSA president Kane Fraser, International Practical Shooting Confederation B.C. Training Course Co-ordinator, Chief Range Officer and former board member Heino Seibert and National Range Officers Institute (NROI) Range Officer and Training Course Instructor Bill Davidson — all from Williams Lake — said the OIC does nothing to remove firearms from the hands of criminals and, instead, punishes lawful, responsible gun owners who use firearms for hunting and sporting purposes.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced May 1 the government was banning 1,500 types of what he called assault-style weapons.
The federal RCMP have since added roughly 300 more firearms to the list, which continues to be updated and changed on a daily basis, causing confusion and uncertainty among legal owners, the group said.
The federal government stated the ban would and “does not affect legal hunters and target shooters in any way,” however, Fraser, Seibert and Davidson said, in fact, those are the only groups targeted by the ban.
Now, anyone legally owning any of those firearms, or equipment, must keep them securely locked up. The federal government, meanwhile, has said there will be a two-year amnesty period for gun owners where it will come up with a buy back program for owners to receive what the government is calling ‘fair value’ for any firearms now deemed illegal.
The group, however, said they’re puzzled by many of the firearms listed in the ban, including common firearms used in hunting, target and sport shooting competitions, Davidson added.
“Eighty per cent of firearms that are used in crimes are smuggled into Canada,” Davidson said. “That’s a staggering amount. It goes right to border security and what they’re doing there to prevent this, and their minimal budget. It’s staggering how little they’re putting toward doing that.”
The federal government’s 2019 budget allots $77.3 million over five years and $13.5 million ongoing for enhanced law enforcement at the Canada, U.S. border, equating to roughly $15.5 million per year. The government’s cost to buy back now illegal firearms is estimated to cost a minimum of $500 million, ballooning up to a potential $1.5 billion.
Davidson also said none of the banned guns are actually ‘assault rifles,’ as those weapons are capable of firing in fully automatic mode — adding the targeted firearms seem to be banned based on how they look rather than what they can do, leaving some nearly identical firearms legal. Actual assault rifles have been banned in Canada since 1978.
Seibert stressed no lawful gun owner is opposed to eliminating gun crime, and said he’d rather see meaningful efforts by government to crack down on and punish those involved in firearms related crimes, provide more resources to border control as well as more support for mental health services.
As it stands now, Seibert explained each time a registered firearms owner goes to remove a gun from a locked safe — whether for hunting or sport shooting purposes — its owner needs to check the banned registry list to make sure it has not been changed.
“It’s changing so quickly, and actually on a daily basis, you have to make sure that gun you are taking out hasn’t been listed,” he said. “You have to check this massive list each time.”
IPSC competitions in Canada, which have been hosted in Williams Lake in the past, have effectively been whittled down to pistol competitions as most competition target rifles are now prohibited, Seibert noted.
Businesses dealing in the lawful selling of firearms have also been hit hard, the group noted as, in some cases, much of their stock is now deemed illegal.
An example close to home in Prince George is Cassandra Parker, the co-owner of K.K.S. Tactical Supplies Ltd., who is taking the federal government to court and asking for a judicial review of the government’s ban of firearms.
Parker’s lawsuit claims the firearms prescribed as prohibited are reasonable for use in Canada for hunting or sporting purposes, and do not pose a disproportionate risk to public safety. She further calls into question the government’s opinion to the contrary, stating it is not supported by any evidence.
Fraser said if the Prime Minister’s stated objective is to reduce gun crime, targetting law abiding citizens makes no sense.
He said the expanded restrictions will do nothing to stop the illegal flow of guns into the country, resulting in a veiled public safety benefit.
Fraser pointed to the Canadian long-gun registry as another misguided attempt at preventing gun crime.
The gun registry was originally supposed to cost roughly $2 million, however, by 2004, had skyrocketed to nearly $2 billion spent or committed to the federal program.
“[This] cost taxpayers billions of dollars and did nothing to curtail criminal gun activity as the guns never were registered,” Fraser said. “Again, law abiding firearms owners and business owners are the individuals targeted by previously failed Liberal attempts at gun control and the current Order in Council.”
Court challenges, meanwhile, have continued to crop up throughout the country surrounding the OIC on the basis of how it was legislated, including from the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights (CFFR), a public relations and educational branch of the Canadian firearms community.
“The government, in an entirely arbitrary and irrational way, has created legislation that will deprive us of our property and our freedom to live as we wish, on pains of incarceration for failing to comply,” states the CFFR.
“We will ask the Court to rule on whether or not the government has the right to deprive us of our liberty, or our property, on penalty of incarceration, on fundamentally irrational grounds.”
The federal government is also facing pressure from multiple groups, including the CFFR, to make the buyback program mandatory to ensure prohibited firearms don’t fall into the illegal black market.
“I think every Canadian supports the responsible, lawful use of firearms for sporting and hunting purposes and we all agree that criminal use of firearms needs to be prevented,” Fraser said.
“Let’s put laws in place and utilize our resources to enforce existing criminal law and to stop the illegal smuggling of guns into our country.”
Todd Doherty, MP for Cariboo-Prince George, has endorsed a petition to repeal the gun ban.
Started by Steve Hamilton in May, 2020, it has received over 55,000 signatures.
Another petition, started by Jesse Faszer of Calgary, Alta., and endorsed by Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner, has received over 223,000 signatures.
Doherty told Black Press Media his Conservative government “understands that licensed owners are not the problem.”
Instead of banning guns, Doherty said the Conservative party believes it would be more effective to direct federal resources towards combating illegal gun smuggling and gang activity.
He called Trudeau’s decision arbitrary, and said by re-classifying over 1,500 firearms as prohibited, the Prime Minister has “by definition reclassified law abiding Canadians as criminals with the stroke of a pen.”