A B.C. conservation group says the federal government is targeting the wrong people with its proposed gun legislation.
Amendments to Bill C-21 introduced last week would effectively ban millions of hunting and sporting rifles, in addition to models already in its targets.
“The federal government is laser-focused on regulating firearms that are rarely used in the commission of crimes and punishing Canadians who are the least likely to commit crimes,” says Jesse Zeman, executive director of the B.C. Wildlife Federation. “Meanwhile, gang violence and gang related murders are the highest on record since Canada started tracking it in 2005.”
About 74 per cent of gang-related murders are committed with guns, most with a handgun, according to Statistics Canada.
“The government knows that gang-related crime is through the roof, but their proposed regulation targets the wrong people and misleads Canadians about the perpetrators of gun crime,” says Zeman. “Gangsters don’t follow the rules, so more rules are not going to address the problem.”
Bill C-21 was originally introduced to implement a mandatory buyback program for so-called assault-style firearms. The government's list of affected firearms included more than 2,000 models.
Proposed changes now expand the definition of a prohibited firearm to include semi-automatic rifles and shotguns “designed to accept a detachable cartridge magazine with a capacity greater than five cartridges.”
That could affect millions of hunting and sporting firearms.
A Fraser Institute study found confiscating the lawfully owned weapons could cost more than $1 billion – plus up to $750 million in compensation to legal owners, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office. A further $200 million would be spent to destroy the guns.
“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,” says Zeman. “The federal government should focus on the real roots of gun crime: Gangs and smugglers, neither of whom will be affected by these changes.”
More than 90 per cent of gun-related crime in Canada is committed with firearms smuggled from the United States.
Zeman notes holders of a Possession and Acquisition License are vetted carefully by the RCMP before a license is granted, and the list of PAL holders is checked every 24 hours against the identities of people charged with criminal offences.
The BCWF instead suggests government fund law enforcement to catch those who commit criminal offences with guns and to bolster the Canadian Border Services Agency to stop the flow of illegal weapons.