An unusual gun-financing program being offered by a Metro Vancouver hunting store is raising serious concerns that the option will provide easier access to firearms.
Wanstalls, which sells everything from sporting shotguns to semi-automatic rifles, began offering a financing program this February which puts guns in the hands of buyers immediately and lets them pay over a set period of time.
Because importing firearms can be a years-long process, people who order them might not be able to pay the full price when they finally arrive, according to store co-owner Craig Jones.
“It’s been breathtaking to see how many people are actually responding to this in a positive way,” Jones told CTV News.
The program appears to be the first of its kind in Canada, and Jones said most of those taking advantage are buying guns in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.
“It is unusual in that it’s not presently available all over, although the concept’s not unusual. It might be more like financing an ATV or a car,” Jones said.
He said the same screening and vetting processes are still in place for those seeking to own guns and doubted the program would increase rates of gun violence.
“It doesn’t change who’s buying the firearms, it just changes the manner in which they pay for the firearm,” he said. “The people doing the violence aren’t the people who’re buying guns legally in Canada.”
But others are worried financing will remove a significant barrier to gun ownership.
“It’s an ease of access issue, I think, that’s the primary concern,” said Dr. Rob Gordon, professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University. “I just think it’s a good crime prevention mechanism to have these sorts of barriers.”
Gordon said there’s merit in concerns that people who don’t have enough money to buy guns shouldn’t be buying them in the first place.
“We’ve got a declining violent crime rate at the moment. Let’s keep it declining,” he said. “I don’t think easier access to firearms of any kind is going to result in that decline continuing.”
Those who can’t make their payments would be asked to return their firearm to the store, Jones said.
“If they don’t return it, ti would be just like a consumable…just like purchasing something on credit that would be consumable,” he said.
Wanstalls, which is located in Maple Ridge, has been in business since 1971, according to its website.