Tories to push further easing of gun restrictions at little-known committee
Here’s a recent article by Jeff Davis a freelance writer for Post Media, Jeff seems to be taking on firearms legislation and reporting on them in most of his articles.
OTTAWA — A Conservative MP recently demoted for sleeping on the job is using his new position on a little-known House of Commons committee to loosen Canada’s firearms rules.
The ultimate goal, Calgary MP Rob Anders said, is to repeal strict gun control provisions “shoved down our throats” by the Liberal government in the mid-nineties.
An enthusiastic hunter and shooter, Anders was recently moved by his party to the standing joint committee on scrutiny of regulations following a series of gaffes. Formerly a member of the veterans affairs committee, he had branded two veterans’ advocates “NDP hacks” after they took issue with his falling asleep at a meeting in Halifax. The move from one committee to the other was broadly viewed as a demotion to a backwater committee.
But Anders said he will use his position on the regulations committee to put the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program — which administers Canada’s gun control regime — under the microscope.
“Absolutely, we can use the scrutiny of regulations committee to see where the Canadian Firearms Program has overstepped their bounds,” he said.
Anders said he is glad to be joined at committee by Saskatchewan Tory MP Garry Breitkreuz, who for years led the Conservative charge to scrap the long-gun registry.
The regulations committee reviews regulations to determine whether they are unconstitutional, fall afoul of their jurisdiction or, as Anders said, “violate a sense of natural justice.”
Anders says his mission is to roll back the provisions of Bill C-68, the sweeping gun control legislation implemented by then Liberal justice minister Allan Rock in 1995. That law gave birth to the now-defunct long gun registry, but also imposed a whole raft of new gun control provisions.
The new rules required gun owners to lock and safely store their guns when not in use. They also forced owners of restricted and prohibited firearms to obtain authorization-to-transport papers before taking them to the range, and introduced a more restrictive classification system.
“Canada has a rich history of fur trapping, hunting, farming and ranching where a firearm is an essential tool,” Anders said. “For some downtown Liberal lawyer to determine he’s going to seize people’s guns and change the culture goes against the very nature of our country.”
Anders said there is widespread support for further firearms law reforms, and not just within the Conservative caucus. The Parliament’s all-party outdoors caucus is currently the largest all-party caucus with an estimated 81 MPs and senators, and aims to protect such sports as hunting and sport shooting.
“Almost all the guys from the rural areas, and folks from the cities who are interested in property rights, are all on side with this,” Anders said. “Allan Rock shoved Bill C-68 down out throats years ago, and really galvanized and mobilized a whole community.”
In March, Breitkreuz moved that the committee review three particular regulations, dealing with licensing fees, licensing regulations and firearms markings. Exchanges between the Canadian Firearms Program and the committee on these subjects continue.
Breitkreuz told Postmedia News there are a number of changes he would like to see made, many of which were included in his failed private members’ Bill C-301.
The duration of licences should be extended from the five years, as it is now, to 10-year or lifetime validity. These renewals has become redundant, Breitkreuz said, because police now verify the validity of each licence every day, and immediately revoke them in the case of criminal charges.
And since authorization-to-transport papers must be provided by the RCMP to gun owners upon request, Breitkreuz said this antiquated system should simply be collapsed into the licence card.
Breitkreuz said he would like to see firearms laws moved from the criminal code — where they are now — into the civil code. This would help protect firearms owners from being criminalized for mere paperwork errors, he said, such as expired licences or authorizations to transport.
“If you really look, and scratch below the surface on some of these laws, they don’t make sense,” he said. “And I think we need to review them to make sure there is some rhyme or reason to what we’re doing.”
Anders and Breitkreuz also take issue with the sweeping powers the Canadian Firearms Program has to classify and reclassify guns, crucial determinations that affect who can own a particular gun, where it can be fired, and how it must be stored and transported.
For example, a .22-calibre rifle called the AP80 recently was moved from the non-restricted into the prohibited category because its threatening looks are similar to Russia’s infamous AK-47 assault rifle. As a result, they can no longer be used for hunting, and can only be owned by the relatively few holders of prohibited firearms licences. All other owners had their AP80s seized by police.
This, Anders said, is like banning Humvees and other SUVs because they “look too military.”
However, NDP MP Francoise Boivin, one of the committee’s co-chairs, said Anders is trying to change the firearms rules by the “back door.” The regulations committee is a generally non-partisan forum, she said, which has not held a vote in more than a year because its members unanimously approve all regulations as a matter of course.
Boivin said Anders’ plan to request review of standing regulations will take the committee into uncharted territory, and interfere with the routine but vital role it plays.
“If we start playing games and playing politics with that process, where we are heading is unbelievable,” she said. “Basically he’s asking for the committee to second-guess work that is already done, and that’s serious.”
Canadian Sports Shooting Association executive director Tony Bernardo said his organization fought against Bill C-68 when it came into force, and has been lobbying for years for just the changes Anders and Breitkreuz suggest. He said the whole Firearms Act should be thrown out and rewritten.
“There are a bunch of reforms that need to be done,” he said. “The whole Firearms Act is just so dumb, so dysfunctional.”
Toronto Firearms lawyer Ed Burlew said the current firearms regime has caused serious miscarriages of justice since its introduction. Police routinely lay charges and seize firearms from people who are earnestly trying to abide unclear laws, he said, giving rise to the saying, “the process is the punishment.”
“The law was poorly written in the first place,” he said. “The mental anguish it causes and what it takes out of people is phenomenal.”
Breitkreuz said there are extreme “fringe” gun rights activists in Canada who want all gun controls repealed, but that he’s not among them.
“There are some that would do away with all firearms laws, and would like virtually no restrictions,” he said. “That’s not doable so I can’t agree with them.”