Policy Wanks: a new weekly column by Christian Varty

Bill C-71, meant to tighten regulations around firearms, passes through House of Commons

Last Monday night, Bill C-71, an act to amend certain acts and regulations in relation to firearms passed through the House of Commons by a margin of 185 yes to 79 no.

The bill will be voted on in the senate where a final review will be made.

The bill was sponsored by Ralph Goodale, long time Liberal and Minister of Public Safety. Bill C-71 was introduced March 27th, 2018.

While Goodale acknowledges that gun crime in general has been on the decline in Canada during the past decade, he said that “a number of critical statistics concerning firearms pivoted in 2013 to show a significant increase over subsequent years.”

Goodale then supplemented this assertion with data saying that “in 2013, there were 134 gun homicides; in 2016, there were 223. For armed robbery, the numbers jumped from 2,096 in 2013 to 2,870 in 2016.”

On the Liberal’s platform website they have said they will implement “common-sense measures that will crack down on illegal handguns and assault weapons, creating safer communities.”

This act aims to do so by bringing in more regulation around how Canadians are able to transfer non-restricted firearms to each other as well as introducing provisions for transporting restricted weapons and prohibiting certain models and grandfathering in existing models.

Bill C-71 would also see the implementation of a rule that requires the sale of all new guns to be recorded by the retailer and that these records are to be kept for a minimum of 20 years. These records will be privately held by the firearm retailer and will not be available to government institutions except upon request from the RCMP while undergoing an investigation.

Detractors of the bill claim that this will effectively bring back the long-gun registry, which the Conservatives scrapped in 2012. The long-gun registry was put under scrutiny for being ineffective at preventing crime, as well as being needlessly tedious.

The two types of firearms that are being given prohibited status are the SAN Swiss Arms rifle series and certain CZ858 models.

Both of these models have bounced back and forth between the classification of non-restricted and prohibited, depending on the government of the day.

The government’s reason for cracking down on these two models are the allegations that these particular models have been made semi-automatic from automatic guns.

While they are functionally and mechanically the same, these guns are identifiable by various markings on the firearm.

People in the firearms community have raised concerns and suggested that this new legislation will soon lead to the culling of more firearms in Canada.

Tony Bernardo, executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, said in an interview with The Omega that while the government isn’t at the point of confiscating guns, Bill C-71 may set a precedent for future laws.

“Confiscation is deferred, for now,” Bernardo said. “Owners still get to shoot their guns, but only at the discretion of the Chief Firearms Office, which may change at the drop of a bureaucratic hat. How do you boil a frog alive? Slowly. Raise the temperature so imperceptibly the frog doesn’t notice.”