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'A nightmare:' UCP government urges Ottawa to halt Wednesday's enactment of gun control bill

Calgary Herald logo Calgary Herald 2022-05-18 Bill Kaufmann
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Ottawa should delay or fully disarm “a long gun registry” set to take effect Wednesday, says the Alberta government.

And a Calgary gun store owner said he’s been selling far more firearms than normal this week to customers who want to avoid the stricter rules before they’re reality.

Bill C-71 — which includes additional verification for acquisition and possession licenses for non-restricted firearms, and additional bookkeeping for businesses — will be ineffective in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and doesn’t give those affected by it enough time to prepare, said Alberta chief firearms officer Teri Bryant.

“Despite the federal government claiming Bill C-71 is important to our public safety, distressingly little has been done to prepare individuals, businesses or my staff,” Bryant said in a news release.

“Our office has been inundated with calls since news of the deadline emerged because Alberta firearms owners do not understand the changes and are concerned about the potential for a new backdoor long gun registry.”

Ottawa should either delay implementing the legislation for a year or scrap it altogether, she said.

In a letter to federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, Bryant said there are additional fears that under Bill C-71, firearms described by Ottawa as assault weapons that were purchased legally before the legislation could be confiscated.

“This concern has been heightened by your government’s plans under the May 2020 order-in-council to use the existing registry of restricted firearms to confiscate the property of owners who acquired firearms in full conformity with the law at the time of acquisition,” Bryant stated.

The bill was passed in June 2019, but Bryant said those licensing provisions were only announced May 11, giving those affected little time to either adopt or understand them.

Canadian gun control groups contend the legislation is needed to enhance public safety by keeping better track of gun licences and sales, and banning what they call “military assault weapons.”

The Coalition for Gun Control argues the federal government isn’t doing enough to clamp down on firearms amid a rise in shootings in recent years and is calling for a national ban on handguns with limited exceptions.

“Canada is one of only a few nations in the world to have moved backwards with gun control reform,” states the group’s website.

“Few Canadians know that the AR-15, a military weapon used in many mass shootings, is sold to civilians in Canada. Many Canadians think handguns are virtually banned — there are now almost 1 million legally owned handguns in Canada.”

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Acccording to RCMP, which oversees the verification system, individuals and businesses need to obtain a reference number from the Registrar of Firearms confirming the validity of the buyer’s firearms licence before transferring a non-restricted firearm.

Businesses will also be required to retain sales and inventory records related to non-restricted firearms for a minimum of 20 years.

“This is not the return of the Long Gun Registry. The records created by businesses will be held by businesses — not government — and the police will require judicial authorization to access them,” states the RCMP’s website.

One Calgary gun store owner said the new legislation is burdensome, ineffective and a threat to privacy.

But James Cox said he’s seen a huge bump in sales in the past week as customers try to beat the clock before Bill C-71 takes effect.

“I’m going to send (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau thanks for all the extra business,” said Cox of the Shooting Edge, at 510 77th Ave. S.E.

“People want to get the semi-autos before the registry kicks in.”

But Cox said his gratitude toward the Liberal government ends there, adding responsibility for additional verification is being downloaded on businesses.

And he said the demand for more personal information from firearms purchasers will put their privacy at risk, for no good reason.

“It’s just Liberal talking points that it’s going to get weapons off the street, but how is that?” said Cox.

“These guys are out of control . . . it’s going to be a nightmare.”

A number of Alberta gun shops, he said, are shutting down to better prepare for the legislation’s implementation.

The use of firearms like the AR-15, he said, is already highly-restricted and that particular rifle has never been used in crimes in Canada.

“This isn’t the U.S. — the reason we have fewer firearms deaths in Canada is because of (mandatory) training,” said Cox.

In 2020, there were 19,350 gun-related homicides in the U.S. — 70 times the 277 recorded that year in Canada.

The U.S. population is about 10 times that of Canada.

Public Safety Canada didn’t comment on the Alberta government’s request to halt the legislation’s implementation.

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn


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