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Gun owners argue Canada's new gun control measures won't work

Star Phoenix logo Star Phoenix 2021-02-17 Alex MacPherson, Saskatoon StarPhoenix
a person posing for the camera: Jeff Kent is the president of the Saskatoon Rifle and Revolver Club. © Provided by Star Phoenix Jeff Kent is the president of the Saskatoon Rifle and Revolver Club.
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Jeff Kent hasn’t decided what to do about his rifles.

The president of the Saskatoon Rifle and Revolver Club said he’s spent around $13,000 on four firearms that are now prohibited, and likely eligible for the federal government’s voluntary buyback program.

Details have yet to be unveiled, but the program follows the Liberal government’s decision to ban what it calls “military-style assault weapons ,” or what the shooting community refers to as “modern sport rifles.”

While Ottawa contends the slate of new gun control measures will improve public safety by eliminating dangerous weapons, gun owners and advocates argue it will do nothing of the sort, and ultimately amounts to a political move.

“You can’t help but feel it’s a personal attack,” said Kent, adding that he believes no group in Canada is more scrutinized or heavily-vetted by law enforcement officials than licensed firearm owners.

“A buyback does nothing to get the illegal guns off the street. Criminals don’t sell their guns to the government; criminals sell their guns to criminals,” added North Pro Sports owner Kevin Kopp.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced Bill C-21 on Tuesday. Blair said it was designed to avoid “tragic outcomes” when the wrong people obtain powerful firearms.

In addition to the expected buyback, the package also contains stiffer penalties for gun smuggling and expanded “red flag” provisions aimed at ensuring anyone deemed a threat has their firearms seized.

The new legislation will also permit municipalities to enact stricter regulations for handgun owners, though that is a moot point in Saskatchewan, since the province has already banned cities from acting on the federal law .

“There is nothing in the measures that we are bringing forward intended to interfere, or make more difficult, the activities of legitimate hunting and sport activities with firearms,” Blair said.

The Canadian Coalition for Gun Control wants Ottawa to enact a national ban on handguns.

Gun rights advocates like Kopp and Kent argue a voluntary buyback will be ineffective while decimating businesses and shooting organizations such as the local wildlife federation.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Blair said a lack of information about who has the weapons limits the effectiveness of any mandatory buyback. He pledged that owners will be treated “respectfully and fairly.”

Ottawa has estimated the program will average about $1,300 per gun; Blair told CTV he estimates the buyback will cost taxpayers between $250 million and $260 million .

Those who choose to keep their weapons will have to get a licence and keep them locked up at home.

It’s not known how many rifles were captured by the ban, which came into effect on May 1, 2020 and includes variants of several rifles that have been used in high-profile mass shootings in Canada and abroad.

Speaking at a news conference earlier in the week, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe — whose government favours the status quo when it comes to firearm regulation — criticized Ottawa for a lack of consultation on C-21.

Saskatchewan is divided on gun control, according to a 2018 study , which found 40 per cent of people want tighter restrictions and nine per cent more lenient ones, while 47 per cent prefer the status quo.

While some have expressed concern about potential abuse of the expanded red flag provisions, which could allow warrantless seizures, Saskatoon criminal defence lawyer Mark Brayford argued otherwise.

The new legislation is essentially a “duplication” of existing law, which provides ample opportunity to seize firearms from someone suspected of being a threat to themselves or other people, he said.

The existing system relies on the “good judgment” of police, firearms officers and judges, Brayford said, adding he is “not concerned” about that portion of Bill C-21.

Kopp, Kent and other advocates suggest the government could do more to improve public safety by cracking down on criminals using illegal guns and investing in areas such as mental health care.

Kent said he is “divided” about what to do with his now-prohibited firearms once the buyback opens, but suggested he might sell some to the government to recoup the now-useless capital investment.

“My favourite gun, my rifle that I built specifically for competition, I’ll probably keep in hopes that a future government will overturn this.”


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