The federal government’s Bill C-71, which would put tighter restrictions on gun ownership faces chilly reception from firearms owners. (Lakes District News file photo)

Lakes District gun owners blast federal Bill C-71 on firearms rules

Bill C-71 amending the Firearms Act, a piece of legislation that would put tighter restrictions on gun ownership passed through the House of Commons in Ottawa in September.

But the rural demographic of the Lakes District, with a larger number of hunters and gun owners compared to urban areas, gave the bill the equivalent of scattered, awkward applause.

READ MORE: MP to hold 100 Mile town hall on Bill C-71

As of Nov. 28 the bill was going through its second reading in the Senate.

Some of the key changes that C-71 would bring include requiring retailers to record details of firearms sales and inventories, and background checks for criminal behaviour or mental illness extending further than the current five years.

Licensed gun owners would also have to have an authorization to transport (ATT) paper if they plan to travel with a restricted firearm.

“I think it’s preposterous,” Don Stevenson, a member of the Tweedsmuir Park Rod & Gun Club told Lakes District News.

“There are already stringent background checks for owning firearms. I’ve got tags on all of my firearms and it took a long time. One action on my part can see all that taken away. From my point of view it’s like someone taking away your car because you had an accident.”

Stevenson, who is a hunter and rancher, regards C-71 as not doing enough to target gang activity where most actual gun violence takes place.

“Taking the guns away from sportsmen isn’t the answer,” he said.

For Claudia Ferris, Public Relations Director with the British Columbia Wildlife Federation, the background checks in the bill raise a lot of questions.

“[What if] you got into a bar fight in your 20s – is that going to come back? Will that impact someone in their 50s who likes to go hunting with their families?”

As for mental health checks, Ferris wonders how invasive they might be, “Would you going to the doctor because you feel depressed – does that affect your potential of getting a gun?”

She’s also concerned that the added regulations will exhaust the patience of sportspeople.

“If the activity becomes too expensive and too onerous then they might find another activity. All these restrictions make it harder for people to get out and enjoy the wilderness and hunt.”

“Why should rural hunters pay the price for Surrey gang members?” she asked.

Nathan Cullen, MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, sympathizes with the frustrations that law-abiding gun owners feel about the bill, and believes it still needs some review.

“I think the people that are initially impacted are the people who follow the law. It’s the nature of the beast,” he said.

In general, Cullen thinks the government hasn’t done the best job in communicating with gun-owners, who don’t trust the federal Liberals.

“I think where the Liberals have failed is in respecting what the gun-owning community has done in terms of training and safety,” he said.

“There’s too much ignorance of gun owners or hunting families. And of rural hunting life. Don’t let that ignorance lead to drawing up bad laws.”

At the same time, he believes gun owners should be aware of how fearful many people have become after hearing about or witnessing gun violence in their communities.

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