The federal government’s firearms bill would “effectively ban millions of hunting and sporting rifles,” punish law-abiding gun owners, and do little to curb gang violence in Canada.
That’s according to the B.C. Wildlife Federation, a 44,000-member organization that says changes to Bill C-21 unfairly target lawful holders of a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL).
Bill C-21 covers a lot of ground on firearms, including a national “freeze” on the sale, purchase or transfer of handguns by people within Canada, and bringing new handguns into Canada. That came into force on Oct. 21.
But it’s the new rules on restrictions to the capacity of long-gun magazines that has many gun groups upset.
Under the changes, Bill C-21 would require long-gun magazines to be permanently altered so they can never hold more than five rounds, and will ban the sale and transfer of large capacity magazines under the Criminal Code.
Bill C-21 was originally introduced by the government to implement a mandatory buyback program for so-called “assault-style” firearms. But the rules will also impact semi-automatic rifles and shotguns “designed to accept a detachable cartridge magazine with a capacity greater than five cartridges of the type for which the firearm was originally designed,” said the news release.
That will affect millions of guns used for hunting, say firearms groups.
“Banning and buying back rifles that are used for hunting and sport shooting by licensed firearms owners will have no impact on crime at all,” said Jesse Zeman, executive director of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, in a statement. “The federal government should focus on the real roots of gun crime: Gangs and smugglers, neither of whom will be affected by these changes.”
Zeman added that the federal government will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy back weapons that would never be used to commit a crime.
“Banning and buying back rifles that are used for hunting and sport shooting will only affect law-abiding, RCMP-vetted Canadians who rely on wild game to feed their families or enjoy a day at the shooting range. In contrast, smugglers are literally using drones to fly illegal handguns across the border to gangs, and the federal government is looking the other way because investing in better border security isn’t in their political interests.”
Zeman said most gang violence is perpetrated with handguns that are unlicensed and illegally obtained.
— Toronto Police Service Guns Seized #offthestreets (@TPSGunsSeized) September 22, 2022
The federal government counters this argument by saying it is tackling gun smuggling and trafficking by increasing criminal penalties, providing more tools for law enforcement to investigate firearms crimes, and strengthening border security measures.
“We made a commitment to Canadians to tackle gun violence,” said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, in a statement.
“The legislation we introduced … is part of our comprehensive strategy to promote safe and responsible gun laws, invest in law enforcement to stop organized crime and illegal gun smuggling at the border, and to invest in communities to address root causes and prevent gun crime from occurring in the first place.”
Budget 2021 provided more than $312 million in new funding to increase firearms tracing capacity and implement stronger border control measures. Law enforcement agencies seized more than double the number of firearms at the border in 2021, compared to 2020, which is also the highest number of firearms seized in recent years, says a federal government statement.