On May 1, the federal government issued an order-in-council to ban over 1,500 makes and models of “assault-style” military grade weapons in Canada. The ban will apply to even the licensed gun owners who will no longer be allowed to sell, transport, import or use any of the weapons mentioned on the list, in Canada.
Two e-petitions were started immediately in response to the ban order, in the hopes of getting the government to reconsider and repeal the gun ban. The e-petition initiated by one Jesse Faszer from Calgary, Alberta has already garnered 1,65,548 signatures at the time of going to the press, making it the second highest signed e-petition to date.
This petition, that is supported by MP Michelle Rempel Garner, calls upon the government to repeal the ban that they believe is obstructive of the rights of those who own guns legally. The petition goes on to demand immediate scrapping of the order “related to confiscating legally owned firearms and instead pass legislation that will target criminals, stop the smuggling of firearms into Canada, go after those who illegally acquire firearms, and apologize to legal firearms owners in Canada.”
Another petition that was started by Steve Hamilton of Prince George also demands an immediate revocation of the gun ban order. The petition that is being supported by the Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty, had already collected 35, 463 signatures at the time of going to the press, making it the third most-signed e-petition in Canadian history.
The most-signed e-petition till date has also been around the gun ban, which was initiated by Bradley Mansyiak from Medicine Hat, Alberta, gathering 1,75,310 signatures. It was presented to the House of Commons by Conservative Glen Motz. This petition appealed to the Government of Canada to “put any new firearms laws, bans, buyback programs or changes to licensing before the House of Commons to be debated.
All three petitions have appealed to the people to support the petitions and stand against what some see as an arbitrary decision from the Government, to ban guns; a ban that will extend to the legal gun owners as well.
“I think it’s a misguided announcement. They are targeting the wrong people. Because they are going after people who already abide by the laws of this country and they are not going after the people that don’t—the criminals,” said Paul Hilliard, owner of Woods N’ Water, a local sports and recreation shop which also sells firearms.
The petitions express similar sentiment to Hilliard, in supporting the legal firearms owners while stating that “criminals who have illegally obtained firearms will not be impacted by this confiscation regime.”
The ban includes guns that have been used in past Canadian shootings, including the Ruger Mini-14 which was used in the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in Montreal in 1989, the M14 semi-automatic which was used in the 2014 Moncton shooting, the Beretta CX4 Storm used in the Dawson College shooting, the CSA-VZ-58 which the gunman attempted to use in the Quebec Mosque shooting as well, the firearms used in other mass shootings in Las Vegas, Orlando and Sandy Hook.
Hilliard said that the ban would also extend to some hunting guns, “Hunters are actually feeling attacked by this because they are legal gun owners so they feel attacked by a government that is coming after their guns.”
While speaking to reporters during the announcement, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair clarified that the new gun control reforms by the government were not intended to interfere with the activities of the legal gun owners, specifically mentioning the hunters and target shooters. “However, we are today ending the availability of weapons that were not designed for hunting or for target shooting. They were rather designed for soldiers, to kill other soldiers,” he said. He also acknowledged that although many might believe that these weapons hold recreational value, “the tragic reality is that these weapons have been designed to kill people and have been used to kill Canadians.”
However, the petition supported by Dohorty says that the Justice Minister David Lametti’s remarks on “an exception for Indigenous peoples exercising a section 35 hunting right, as well as those who use the weapon for hunting to feed themselves or their family” suggests that these firearms are suitable for hunting.
Some of the hunting guns aren’t the only ones that have found their way on the list though. Surprisingly, the gun ban has also included an airsoft gun, “a toy gun” in Hilliard’s words. On the list of banned guns made available on Canada Gazette, features the Blackwater BW-15 which is actually an airsoft gun, that runs on a battery, shoots plastic .20 g round pellets, has a bright orange tip and doesn’t have a firearms cartridge. The list also includes items that are not technically firearms, or available to the public, including some missile and grenade launchers.
“They have banned guns that we can’t get anyways—some of the guns on the list are those that have been unavailable to Canadians forever. No body can have a machine gun in Canada,” said Hilliard, adding that these measures were being taken simply to make Canadians feel safer, even though in reality they are not. “Why you’d take guns away from honest people or why you’d say you would do that, and not target the criminals in any way, shape or form, doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
A potential ban on the military style rifles was expected after the government passed Bill C-71 through the Senate in May 2019. However, Ottawa provided no details at that time, on how and when the ban might be enforced and how the buyback program would work. This time however, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a buyback program for all legally purchased rifles that would fall under the new ban. The owners will be offered fair market prices for their guns — a program expected to cost up to $600 million.
Apart from the cost impact of this ban, legal gun owners in general are disappointed by this ban as many believe that the gun laws in the country around legally owned weapons are already strict. “Gun people know that we are very strict in Canada,” remarked Hilliard.
The e-petitions also mention how the legal gun owners are vetted on a daily basis through the CPIC system. The petition supported by MP Michelle Rempel Garner also remarks that “the Prime Minister is using the emotion of the tragedy in Nova Scotia to impose this confiscation regime even though all of the firearms the murderer used were illegally obtained”.
Both the e-petitions will remain open for signatures, for six months, until September 2, 2020.