As the federal Liberals propose to ban military-style assault rifles, many gun owners in the Burns Lake area say this action would do more harm than good.
“If this gets passed by the current government, it will only punish law-abiding Canadians, cost Canadians hundreds of millions of dollars and not stop the gang violence plaguing our cities,” said Brandon Pollok, who lives south of Burns Lake.
During the campaign, the Liberals promised a number of measures to stiffen gun control in Canada, including banning assault rifles and empowering municipalities to ban handguns if they so choose.
According to the federal government, gun homicides nearly doubled between 2013 and 2017 — from 134 to 266 cases. More than half (55 per cent) of firearm-related homicides in 2017 were committed using handguns while rifles or shotguns were used in 23 per cent.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said last month the prohibition of the assault-style rifles is an important step that perhaps could be accomplished in the near term.
“The arrangements on any potential buy-back (of assault rifles) … will take a little bit more time because I think it’s really important that we get good value for the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars and, at the same time, I’m very mindful that we’re dealing with law-abiding Canadians and I want to make sure that they’re treated fairly and respectfully.”
But to some Burns Lake residents, the proposed legislation infringes on their rights.
“That is taking away the right of someone to have something,” said Paul Hilliard, owner of Woods N’ Water in Burns Lake. “And if they (government) can do that, what’s next? What other rights are they going to come after?”
Law-abiding gun owners should not be paying the price for crimes they did not commit, added Hilliard.
To local resident Brendan Benoit Alec, the current gun laws are “strict enough.”
Bill C-71, which passed senate and received Royal Assent last year, has put tighter restrictions on gun ownership — expanding background checks, requiring sellers to verify the validity of a firearms licence and strengthening transportation requirements.
The Tweedsmuir Park Rod and Gun Club continues to oppose Bill C-71, said Karla Matson, the club’s secretary.
“We are part of a larger national body of firearms owners who are working to oppose this bill, and will do so as long as possible.”
—With files from The Canadian Press