A Hunter loading his hunting rifle gun with magazine

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced details of Bill C-21, an Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms) on Feb. 16.

Among other things, the new legislation contains amendments to the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act and long-awaited details regarding the federal government’s firearms buyback program.

That program, referred to by firearms groups as a mandated confiscation program, details how the owners of more than 1,500 models and variants of formerly legal so-called “assault-style” firearms banned last May — and some of their components — will be treated.

Violence, self-harm targeted

The legislative amendments are intended to combat partner and gender-based violence and self-harm involving firearms by creating red- and yellow-flag laws that would anyone to apply to the courts for immediate removal of an individual’s firearms (previously only available to peace officers, firearms officers, and Chief Firearms Officer). They could also ask to suspend and review an individual’s firearms licence.

The legislation also promises to increase criminal penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking as well as enhance the capacity of Canada’s Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to combat the illegal importation of firearms.

Under the proposed legislation, municipalities will also be permitted to ban handguns through bylaws restricting storage and transportation within their jurisdictions. Violators of these bylaws would be subject to federal penalties, including licence revocation and criminal sanctions.
Funding to municipalities and Indigenous communities will also be made available to support youth programs meant to provide young people resources needed to avoid criminal behaviours.

So-called assault-style ban complete

Under the new legislation, there is a penalty up to five years for altering firearms magazines and depicting violence in firearms advertising, along with tighter restrictions on the import of ammunition and a prohibition of imports, exports, sales, and transfers of all replica firearms.

The most anticipated part of the announcement completed the prohibition of “assault-style” firearms. Under the legislation, they cannot be legally used, transported, sold, transferred, or bequeathed by Canadians.

The government altered the so-called buyback program, by making it no longer mandatory. Under new proposed legislation, owners of recently banned “assault-style” firearms will be able to keep their firearms under stricter storage guidelines, including an obligation to provide information regarding storage measure or locations, and a prohibition of use. Those who wish to sell their guns which, under the legislation would be rendered “legally unusable,” will be compensated.

OFAH responds

Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Manager of Fish & Wildlife Services Matt DeMille said, “We’ve been saying that the government shouldn’t be spending money to take firearms away from law-abiding Canadians, especially when those resources are badly needed elsewhere. The announced funding and tougher penalties to target illegal firearms is what we’ve been asking for, but it doesn’t cancel out the serious issues with the underlying approach and rationale for the prohibitions.

It is a complex bill and we’re still assessing the impacts, but there is clear potential for it to have deep ramifications for the entire firearms community. There is a lot of work to do here, but we will be fully engaged in the parliamentary process, while working provincially to prevent a patchwork of municipal firearms bylaws.”

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