The gun ban announced May 1 was widely cheered as a step toward a safer Canada, but some recreational shooters on P.E.I. are not pleased.
On May 1, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that “military assault-style” weapons will be placed on the list of prohibited firearms. The ban focused on nine categories, as well as any firearm with a bore larger than 20 millimetres and/or with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000 joules. Together, it adds up to a list of more than 1,500 firearms.
Nelline Cronje, a member of the Women Shooters of P.E.I. who has been hunting and competing in firearms sports for decades, called cabinet’s decision to ban the guns “emotional”.
“The problem is, it doesn’t address firearms violence in Canada. The majority of firearms used in violent crimes are obtained illegally,” said Cronje.
The ban directly impacts her recreation activities and her wallet.
At a glance
Following is a list of what’s banned:
- M16, M4, AR-10, AR-15 rifle (upper receiver also prohibited)
- Ruger Mini-14 rifle
- Vz58 rifle
- M14 rifle
- Beretta CX4 Storm carbine
- Robinson Armament XCR rifle
- CZ Scorpion EVO 3 carbine and pistol
- SIG Sauer SIG MCX and SIG Sauer SIG MPX carbine and pistol (upper receiver also prescribed as a prohibited device)
- Swiss Arms Classic Green and Seasons Series rifles
In addition, all firearms with one or more of the following characteristics are prohibited:
- Firearms with a bore 20 millimetres greater (e.g., grenade launchers)
- Firearms capable of discharging a projectile with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000 Joules (e.g. sniper rifles)
Cronje's group had a workshop planned for the fall to introduce women to a variety of firearms in a safe environment with one-on-one instruction.
“Most, if not all, the (guns) we were planning to introduce the ladies to on that day, we now can’t use. We spent hundreds of dollars purchasing ammunition for those already, so we are out of pocket already. So, it’s bad news for many, many people,” said Cronje.
She’s confident Canada has some of the safest gun laws in the world but feels this goes too far.
What’s getting prohibited on the new list are some of the firearms she uses to compete with in International Practical Shooting Confederation events.
“You need a shotgun, a pistol and an AR-15-type firearm for those competitions. It’s sad, really,” she said. “It’s an inanimate object. It depends on who handles it. The safety depends on the handler; it’s totally the handler’s responsibility.”
Dave Hansen agrees. He has been president of the P.E.I. Rifle Association for the last four years. The 100-member group shoots at two ranges on P.E.I., as well as at events across Canada and internationally.
He says rifles are no different than golf clubs.
“In golf, you’re trying to get a hole in one. In target sports you’re trying to get a v-bull (bullseye),” said Hansen.
Gun ownership in Canada is highly regulated, and Hansen worries the new ban will only affect law-abiding gun owners. As the government endeavours to tighten the regulations around gun ownership, it turns into more work for volunteers like him. Hansen is working full-time, filling out paperwork to abide by the rules and keep his organization in operation.
He questions the cost of enacting the stringent rules.
“How much are you going to invest in resources, financial or personnel or whatever else? How much more are you going to throw at the diminishing number of crimes committed by a legal group of owners?” Hansen asked, rhetorically.
But rather than mount a protest, Hansen has decided to focus on what the members of his group of recreational and competitive target shooters are – community-minded, inclusive and supportive – rather than what they are not – reckless or violent.
Charlottetown MP Sean Casey said the ban fulfils an election promise.
Made with an Order in Council, it was the result of a “broad consultation process” with the public and experts from law enforcement.
The ban focused on modern, semi-automatic weapons with large magazine capacities that are commonly available, said Casey.
“What this has done is effectively frozen the market,” said Casey.
Casey, who is not a gun enthusiast, said he doesn’t have the background to debate the specific contents of the banned list.
“I can say, I do have faith in the process that was followed, that it was a thorough process,” he said. “Seventy-eight per cent of Canadians wanted to see this.”
To the comment that opponents described the OIC as undemocratic, Casey explained that an Order in Council is a legitimate, prescribed power of the government.
“Section 117 of the Criminal Code gives cabinet the power to identify weapons to be banned, so long as they aren’t necessary for hunting and sporting activities,” said Casey.
The issue isn’t finished yet as there will be legislation to come from the announcement which will be fully debated in the House of Commons, he said.
As for concerns that the ban was based on appearance alone, Casey pointed to input from law enforcement when choosing what to ban.
“When you implement (experts’) advice, there wouldn’t be overreach. This has been targeted at weapons that are designed to kill the maximum number of people in the least amount of time.”
Firearms safety is not a simple issue, said Casey, adding there is certainly room for improvement in border security to catch illegal firearms as they enter the country and in better community and mental health supports to prevent gun violence.
“There are substantial investments being made in border security and mental health, there’s no question about it. I know the argument of the gun lobby is that’s only where our efforts should be. The direction we’ve take is to make investments, while at the same time getting these assault-style weapons off the street. It’s a multi-pronged approach.”
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