Gun retailers and advocates say the way the Canadian government passed its new firearms ban was undemocratic.
Dane Lloyd, MP for Sturgeon River-Parkland, said the changes were not brought forward for debate or discussion before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Public Safety Mnister Bill Blair, Justice Minister David Lametti and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced a new crackdown May 1 on firearms, banning the sale, purchase, transport, import and use of around 1,500 variations.
“We don't really have an opportunity as Canadians to debate this in Parliament and to push forward with legislation that I think most Canadians can get behind,” Lloyd said.
The move by the federal government has garnered praise and protest from various groups across the country.
Michael Davison, managing partner at Bartons Big Country in Grande Prairie, said he was disappointed in how the legislation was introduced.
“This is not the way government is supposed to operate,” Davison said.
The new legislation was passed through an Order in Council, which means it did not get debated by MPs.
“There's absolutely zero foundation to justify the size and scope of the effort,” Michael Davison, managing partner at Bartons Big Country in Grande Prairie, said.
The move came several weeks after a gunman posed as an RCMP officer and launched an attack on rural Nova Scotia. He killed twenty-two people: some were shot and others died in fires he set.
“Enough is enough. Banning these firearms will save Canadian lives,” said Blair when the legislation was announced.
Shane Vaughan, owner of CX Shooters Supplies in Morinville, said he fully expected this legislation to come in after there had been rumblings for a while throughout the industry.
But Vaughan said the move will likely not increase public safety or curb firearm violence in the country. Vaughan noted the Nova Scotia shooter did not buy his firearms legally and smuggled them in from the United States.
“(Trudeau) has just made those firearms that much more valuable on the black market because the bad guys, unfortunately ... will smuggle firearms across the border,” Vaughan said.
The firearms were already heavily regulated, with shooters needing a special licence, course and background check before owning them. Davison noted Canadian weapons are much different than their American counterparts and Canada sells the “neutered” versions.
Davison said the new legislation won’t be effective and many Canadians don’t understand firearms.
“I am astounded at the ignorance of the public,” Davison said.
The gun shop managing partner said gun laws at the federal level are too broad.
“The root issue in Canada that the U.S. doesn't have is we're a bigger landmass than the U.S. trying to govern something like firearms at the federal level. So they're saying that the same firearms laws should apply in Nova Scotia as they do in Alberta,” Davison said.
In Alberta, there are a lot of farmers who have open land in rural areas.
“Crime (is) spiking again – it's a real issue for us. We need to be able to protect our homes. You need to be able to deal with a nuisance coyote attacking your family pet in the driveway. We need to be able to respond to the simple little things that people in urban areas don't understand,” Davison said.
Davison called the gun legislation in Canada a “Frankenstein” of piecemeal legislation put together by people who do not understand guns or the industry.
“Somebody gets an idea and they make an amendment but they don't go to the root of the law that they’re amending to actually fix it where it needs to be fixed. So you end up with a band-aid, this patch, another band-aid, another patch. It's an absolute Frankenstein. It just needs to be stripped and rewritten,” Davison said.
Dane Lloyd, MP for Sturgeon River-Parkland, said the move is going to be a waste of taxpayers money. The federal government is looking into a buyback program to compensate gun owners.
“I think if they engage in a massive gun buyback, it's going to be a waste of taxpayers money. It’s wasteful and ineffective. I don't think it's going to protect any lives, because they're only going after to the people who already obey the law,” Lloyd said.
The MP said a gun buyback will cost taxpayers $1 billion.
“Is a billion dollars a good amount of money to spend on keeping our streets safe? Yes, absolutely. But I think the question I would ask is, is that the most effective use of a billion dollars?”
Lloyd said he would rather see the government focus on finding better tools to stop the smuggling of illegal firearms from the United States and giving police the tools to go after violent criminals who have firearms illegally.
“I think the impact will be so small and negligible that it calls into question, is the government really using taxpayers money most effectively, to achieve the goal of public safety?” Lloyd said.
Tracking how illegal firearms are moving into Canada can be difficult. Statistics Canada has very little data on how illegal weapons are moving into the country.
An annual report by the RCMP’s Firearms Operations and Enforcement Support Unit put out in 2014 found that 114 of the 229 gun crimes successfully traced in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and Yukon involved weapons that were supplied domestically.
In 2014 in Alberta, 15 guns used in crimes were smuggled in while 32 were sourced domestically.
Most of the guns that were banned in April were used for hunting or for hobby target shooting competitions, Vaughan noted.
Vaughan said he would like to see the details of the upcoming gun buyback program, details of which haven’t been release yet, and noted the move will leave many gun shop owners sitting on thousands of dollars in inventory that they cannot sell.
Those battling domestic violence welcome the tightening of gun laws.
Jan Reimer, the executive director of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, said the group is a strong advocate for gun control.
“Our main concern is not so much about guns, it's about the violence perpetrated on women and how guns, when they are readily accessible, become a vehicle for expressing that violence,” Reimer said.
“We know we've certainly seen some horrific examples of that in the last couple of weeks. Women are intimidated, they're killed with guns, they're shot with guns and it is a weapon of choice in domestic homicides.”
Reimer said beyond domestic homicides, guns can also be used to intimidate the family inside the home.
“Often in cases, you know, you have the gun propped up here in the corner. It should be appropriately locked and secured but it's also there as a symbol of intimidation,” Reimer said.
According to Statistics Canada, more Canadians die by handguns than any other type of firearm. In 2018, 143 people were killed with a handgun, 56 were killed with a rifle or shotgun, two were killed with a fully automatic firearm and 18 died from a sawed-off rifle or shotgun.