Bill C-21 comes under fire as southern Albertans decry sweeping gun bans
The bill seeks to amend parts of the federal Firearms Act and the Canadian Criminal Code by making it illegal to buy, sell or transfer ownership of centrefire guns, according to proposed amendments introduced late last month by Liberal MP Paul Chiang. The federal government separately imposed a similar freeze on handguns effective Oct. 1.
Chiang’s proposed amendments would outlaw semi-automatic weapons capable of accepting magazines “with a capacity greater than five cartridges of the type for which the firearm was originally designed,” according to minutes published by Parliament’s standing committee on public safety and national security.
Chiang’s proposals would also ban guns that put out a muzzle force of more than 10,000 joules, as well as guns with a bore of 20 millimetres or more.
C-21 would create a so-called red-flag law that would allow anyone to request a court-ordered weapons prohibition of up to 30 days for anyone deemed to be a risk to themself or others, as well as people who are likely to make weapons available to those already under a weapons prohibition.
The bill would also make it illegal to buy, sell or transfer ownership of so-called replica guns that strongly resemble prohibited guns, including many types of airguns.
The feds in May 2020 changed sections of the Criminal Code to ban a list of around 1,500 types of guns, ammunition and weapons systems, including mortars and rocket launchers — none of which have ever been legal in Canada.
The proposed legislation has come under fire from a host of gun owners, gun retailers and sport shooters in and around Pincher Creek.
Steven Vanderbalk, part owner of Fort Macleod’s Alberta Hardware Ltd. & Alberta Firearms, told Shootin’ the Breeze that Bill C-21 would outlaw $150,000 worth of semi-automatic rifles currently on store racks.
“That’s fair to say at a minimum,” he said, explaining that the figure could be higher because the ban is likely to include a host of shotguns now in stock.
“If you take the handgun ban, (Bill C-21) would make it illegal to sell about 50 per cent of guns that we would normally carry.”
Vanderbalk said the bill makes flippant use of inflammatory language — including and especially its “military-style assault rifle” designation — which he said amounts to “a political ploy that preys on people’s emotions.”
If the bill was designed to make guns less available, Vanderbalk said it’s had precisely the opposite effect. Everyone from “recent immigrants … to grandmas” has been buying guns before Bill C-21 becomes law.
“Trudeau has put so many guns into people’s hands,” he said. “I don’t know if the Liberals have any clue how many guns have been sold in the last six months — just because of the bill.”
Dan Kuftinoff and Myles Lang, president and vice-president at the Oldman River Gun Club, were less sparing in their appraisal.
Kuftinoff said the phrase “assault rifle” was “a horrible term” to describe semi-automatics in Canada. These guns are nothing like the AR-15, “the poster child” of assault rifles, in Kuftifnoff’s words, because Canadian gun laws put a five-round cap on semi-automatic magazines.
Chiang’s proposed amendments would effectively ban all centrefire guns, because they can technically receive higher capacity magazines.
Even hunting rifles, like Lang’s bolt-action Ruger No. 1, are on the federal Liberals’ May 2020 list. The rifle is designed to bring down deer and elk, not people, Lang said.
“This is 100 per cent political. It’s divisive politics that has nothing to do with public safety — period,” Lang insisted.
Anyone who wants to buy a gun must prove to a seller that they have a registered possession and acquisition licence, as per the Firearms Act. Retailers then confirm buyers’ PALs online or by phone by calling Alberta’s chief firearms officer. Even then, retailers can and do refuse sales to people they hold in suspicion, according to Vanderbalk.
The federal government has proposed a gun buyback program that would allow gun owners to sell prohibited firearms to Ottawa or have the guns disabled at Ottawa’s expense.