Firearms Ban May 2020 FAQ
CLICK HERE to read the OFAH letter to Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
Last modified on June 9th, 2020 at 11:29 am.
Through an Order in Council (Cabinet decision), Criminal Code regulations (SOR/98-462) have been amended to prohibit approximately 1,500 models of firearms, including nine principle models and known variants of those models that have been deemed by the federal government as 'assault-style firearms'. This has resulted in a list of firearms. All current and future variants of these listed firearms are prohibited whether listed or not.
The amendments also include two new categories of firearms characterized by the following physical attributes: 1) a 20 mm bore or greater; and, 2) the capacity to discharge a projectile with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000 joules. The firearms in these two new categories aren’t listed in the amended regulations. Although the total number of firearms and owners affected is unknown, it does include about 105,000 restricted firearms.
For more details on the amended regulations (SOR/2020-96).
We acknowledge that Section 117.15 of the Criminal Code allows for the Governor in Council (GIC) to make regulations prescribing firearms and weapons as prohibited; however, in our view, the sweeping changes included in the amended regulations were substantive enough in terminology, language, and approach (model-based in part) that it reinterprets the firearms classification system in the Criminal Code and, therefore, would have justified legislative changes and full parliamentary review.
The timing of these changes during a global pandemic and while Parliament is struggling to function, is being viewed as undemocratic by many. At the very least, robust regulatory consultation with the public and stakeholders that is commonplace with changes of this magnitude would have served to inform the discussion, prevent unintended consequences, and demonstrate sorely needed ‘respect for law-abiding firearms owners’ that has been a platitude of this government.
This 2018-19 dialogue, an election platform, and a mandate letter were signals about what was coming, but they were not nearly sufficient enough to call them consultation on the amended regulations announced on May 1, 2020. Not even close.
The RCMP’s Firearms Reference Table (FRT) is the DIY way to do it. The public FRT is available, but newly prohibited firearms have been added to the list on a regular basis since May 1, 2020. The FRT is also a huge document and can be difficult to download and search for the average user, so we have been asking the government to establish a regularly updated webpage that clearly identifies the firearms that have been prohibited since May 1, 2020 to allow for firearms owners to more easily determine if they are impacted by the prohibitions. In late May, the RCMP included a new link in the FRT to a ‘Prohibited since May 1, 2020’ list. You still need to download the FRT and the link to the PDF list won’t open in some browsers. To make it easier, we have posted the ‘Prohibited since May 1, 2020’ document directly here, stamped with the download date so you know how current it is. We will update it regularly for your convenience.
If you are unsure about whether your firearm is now prohibited, you should always check with an authoritative source before using, transporting or attempting to sell the firearm. Contact the Ontario Chief Firearms Officer (CFO). The CFO will be under significant demand following the prohibition announcements, as well constraints because of COVID-19, so expect delays in getting a response.
Even among firearms owners there are questions about what type of firearms the government is trying to ban. The government’s stated intent is to ban what they’ve deemed ‘military-style assault firearms’. There is no definition of 'assault style firearms' in Canada, and most of the firearms captured under the federal government's ban are modern sporting firearms with a semi-automatic action. Fully automatic firearms have been banned in Canada since 1977. The calibre, action, and many other features of these newly banned firearms often resemble non-restricted firearms used by OFAH members during hunting or shooting activities.
The government has stated that “firearms were chosen through the following principles: 1) semi-automatic action with sustained rapid-fire capability (tactical/military design with large magazine capacity); 2) modern design; and, 3) are present in large volumes in the Canadian market.” These are relatively broad categories with unclear specific rationale, and seemingly inappropriate ‘criteria’ that are intended to capture characteristics already restricted in Canada. As a result, the OFAH is asking the government for further clarification on the rationale used. There needs to be a more clear, transparent, and evidence-based firearms classification system to justify prohibitions.
The OFAH is not ‘for’ or ‘against’ what the government has deemed ‘military-style’ firearms. This isn't about a single firearm or type of firearms. We advocate for sound, evidence-based, and transparent firearms policy development. This is particularly important for firearms classification. We simply don’t agree with the rationale and approach being used for classification.
They are already banned in Canada.
‘Sustained rapid-fire capability’ has not been defined. This is hugely problematic from both a public perception and policy perspective. The ambiguity of the terminology and insufficient description of ‘sustained rapid-fire capability’ has created a public perception that the government is prohibiting fully automatic firearms (aka: machine guns). Fully automatic firearms have been prohibited in Canada since 1977. This misleading narrative in the government’s dialogue has been one of the most disappointing aspects of the amended regulations.
There is no such thing as a legal semi-automatic firearm with ‘sustained rapid-fire capability.’ Criminal Code regulations (SOR/98-462) already describe that “any electrical or mechanical device that is designed or adapted to operate the trigger mechanism of a semi-automatic firearm for the purpose of causing the firearm to discharge cartridges in rapid succession” as prohibited in Canada.
To be clear, the OFAH does not support or advocate for civilian use of fully automatic firearms in Canada.
This conversation isn’t really about whether we should or we shouldn’t, or what the right magazine capacity is. This is about the fact that large capacity magazines are already prohibited in Canada. The Criminal Code regulation (SOR/98-462) that prohibits ‘sustained rapid-fire capability’ also already prohibits large capacity magazines.
The existing exception to this regulation allows for larger capacity magazines in Canada, so long as it has been altered or re-manufactured (e.g. pin, plug, etc.) to render it incapable of containing more than five or ten cartridges. If magazine capacity is a concern, then the government could have examined and exercised policy solutions that specifically target the issue, such as modifying the existing regulatory exemption. The bottom line is that other regulatory options were available and should have been explored prior to implementing the drastic measure of banning firearms.
The government has concluded that “the potential power of these firearms exceeds any safe civilian use”. The government has cited ‘grenade launchers’ as an example of what the bore diameter maximums are intended to prohibit, and ‘rifles chambered for .50 BMG’ for what the 10,000 joules muzzle energy maximum is intended to prohibit.
The RCMP’s Canadian Firearms Program have provided the OFAH with the following clarification:
“If the shotgun is identifiable as either 10 or 12 gauge, then it is accepted as being under 20 mm. If the gauge is not identified by markings or otherwise, then it would depend on actual measurements.”
"In making classification assessments of firearms which are reflected in the FRT, the CFP relies on recognized industry standard measurements. With respect to 10ga and 12ga shotguns, the CFP recognizes the SAAMI standard specifications which establish that the nominal (i.e. standard) bore diameter measurements for 10ga and 12ga shotguns are below the 20mm threshold (19.69mm for 10ga, 18.42mm fo12ga)."
“The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) of the RCMP interprets the Firearms Act, the Criminal Code and the newly amended Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and Other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited, Restricted or Non-Restricted (commonly referred to as the Classification Regulations) for operational purposes such as updating and maintaining the Firearms Reference Table (FRT). While the Firearms Reference Table is not itself a legal instrument, it does reflect the CFP's expert technical assessments of firearms in light of the applicable legislation for the purpose of classification determinations.
In interpreting s. 95 of the Classification Regulations, the CFP is of the view that the reference to a bore diameter of 20mm with respect to 10 and 12 gauge shot guns should be interpreted as meaning the nominal bore diameter for these types of firearms. This is the approach the CFP has historically employed for other firearms classification assessments which are reflected in the FRT. The nominal measurements of 10ga and 12ga shotguns are 19.69mm for 10ga shotguns and 18.42mm for 12ga shotguns. While recognizing that there may be very limited exceptions, these are the measurements relied on by the CFP for the purposes of classification of these firearms in the FRT, which are below the 20mm threshold for the purposes of s. 95 of the Classification Regulations.”
The OFAH is still seeking confirmation on how some specific models, older firearms, bore thinning, back boring and other considerations could affect the classification of some 10-gauge and 12-gauge shotguns.
The RCMP’s Canadian Firearms Program have provided the OFAH with the following clarification:
"The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) of the RCMP adheres to the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners' (AFTE) definition for bore diameter measurements. "The interior dimensions of the barrel forward of the chamber but before the choke." (Glossary of the Association of Firearm & Tool Mark Examiners by the AFTE Standardization Committee, 1st Ed. 1980). This is reflected in the RCMP's Firearms Reference Table (FRT) which clearly states that "...in shotguns, diameter of the barrel forward of the chamber but before the choke." The CFP also recognizes the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) standards regarding firearms and ammunition. The SAAMI chamber specifications for 10ga and 12ga shotguns do not include chokes therefore indicating that chokes are not part of the bore. Accordingly, it is the CFP's view that, in accordance with acceptable firearms industry standards for shotguns, the bore diameter measurement is considered to be at a point after the chamber, but before the choke.
The RCMP’s Canadian Firearms Program have provided the OFAH with the following clarification:
“The term "bore" is not defined in the Firearms Act. The definition of bore from the Association of Firearms and Toolmarks Examiners (AFTE) Journal 1980 1st edition - Glossary: Interior of a barrel forward of the chamber. There is no mention of the forcing cone in this definition.
The forcing cone is part of the bore, but the bore diameter measurement is not taken at the location of the forcing cone. The bore diameter measurement is considered to be at a point after the chamber, but before the choke.
A cartridge shotgun barrel does not have just one interior bore diameter which is why SAAMI will refer to measurements at various locations of the bore. There are many possibilities depending on where it is measured. If the shotgun is identifiable as either 10 or 12 gauge, then it is accepted as being under 20 mm. If the gauge is not identified by markings or otherwise, then it would depend on actual measurements.”
Hunters weren’t the intended target of these bans and not all will be directly impacted. However, the consequences, intended or not, go beyond the stated scope. The ever-increasing and unnecessary reach of these bans stems from inadequate consultation, lack of government preparedness for the changes, and the arbitrary nature of the reclassification criteria.
Although many of the recently banned firearms aren't used for hunting because they were already classified as restricted in Canada (i.e. restricted firearms are not legal to use for hunting in Ontario), there are some non-restricted firearms that are used for hunting that are now prohibited. Some of the firearms deemed to be ‘military-style’ firearms are chambered for calibres that make them appealing for several types of hunting.
Some high-powered hunting rifles (e.g. .460 Weatherby Magnum) are now prohibited because of the muzzle energy restrictions. The full extent of the bore diameter and muzzle energy prohibitions remains uncertain as the definitions and specifications become more clear and the FRT is finalized.
In addition, gun control advocates often oppose firearms capable of 'one shot per trigger pull without manual rechambering', which describes all semi-automatic hunting rifles and shotguns. Hunting and non-hunting firearms are often lumped together in uninformed policy discussions because of similar characteristics. Opposition to semi-automatic firearms has led to the banning of popular hunting firearms in other jurisdictions. Recently in Ontario, we have seen first hand where municipalities have attempted to pass local by-laws restricting the use of ALL semi-automatic firearms. The policy decisions that don't happen today are the future policy objectives of gun control advocates because the intended use of the firearm is not important to them. Vigilance and public education remain very important to prevent unnecessary gun control measures.
The confusion and uncertainty resulting from this has delayed and even cancelled firearm shipments as international manufacturers and distributors attempt to get a handle on what firearms have actually been prohibited. These shipments included many firearms that aren’t prohibited and could impact the availability of common hunting firearms heading into the fall hunting season.
The OFAH gets involved in all firearms policy discussions because it is often difficult to completely separate the firearms used in one activity from another. This is because of similarities in some characteristics, as well as a lack of understanding by the public and many decision makers. We want to make sure that all conversations about firearms policy are evidence-based. Emotionally- or politically-driven decisions on classification of one 'type' of firearm can have a ripple effect on all policy discussions and public perception of firearms in general. Many OFAH members and clubs are actively engaged in shooting sports that use firearms directly involved in these discussions.
If the government has stated they are not prohibiting firearms used for hunting, then why are hunting firearms included?
The OFAH continues to seek clarity on this. The government maintains that the newly prohibited firearms “are not reasonable for hunting or sporting purposes”. This is important, because the regulation making powers of the GIC to prohibit firearms is restricted in 117.15 (2) of the Criminal Code based on whether the firearm is reasonable for hunting or sporting purposes.
To our knowledge, there is no legal definition of ‘hunting’ or ‘sporting’, so it isn’t clear how the government established a threshold for ‘reasonable’ related to those purposes, especially when almost every single newly prohibited firearm is used for hunting or sporting purposes.
The explanation for why some non-restricted (previously) hunting firearms are now prohibited is that the government has based it on what the firearms were ‘designed’ to be used for, as opposed to what they are actually used for. For example, it has been suggested that some of the newly prohibited firearms are high-power rifles that are designed for ‘dangerous game’ hunting and, therefore, are not designed for hunting in Canada.
The government’s rationale also says that “numerous types of firearms remain available for lawful ownership for hunting or sporting purposes”. The simple existence of alternatives is insufficient rationale to conclude that they are not ‘reasonable for hunting or sporting purposes’ and to justify such a far-reaching and sweeping amendment.
The OFAH has recommended that the government must more clearly define the terminology of ‘reasonable for hunting and sporting purposes’ and specifically address how the amended regulations are consistent with the related restriction on regulation-making powers of the GIC. The legality of the amended regulations depends on it.
Absolutely. Hunters and recreational shooters want to see a reduction in criminal activity, gang-related violence and violence associated with firearms as much as other Canadians. The OFAH has publicly stated this on many occasions. We are opposed to the way the government is attempting to prevent criminal activity and address public safety concerns by targeting law-abiding firearms owners.
Public safety has always been a priority of the OFAH and the firearms community. The OFAH continues to be a strong leader and champion for responsible firearm use and hunter education and firearms safety training. The most significant and meaningful enhancements to public safety will be achieved through government investment and action on illegal firearm use and the root causes of gun violence, not by taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens.
The government needs to
- Step up and invest in a deeper look at the root of these issues and commit right now to tackling the social determinants of gun violence, gangs, and the demand for illicit firearms. It will take dedicated and sustained social programming with a long-term commitment to break the cycle of gun violence.
- Give Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) the tools and resources needed to stop the flow of illegal firearms into Canada.
- Further investments in police services at all levels to tackle gangs, organized crime, and the market for illegal firearms.
- Further investments in our justice system with the capacity and policies needed to fully prosecute and keep criminals in jail.
Three main things will happen:
- Illegal firearms and criminal activity will continue;
- we will fail to actually keep the public safe from illegal firearms, and;
- the firearms community will continue to bear the brunt of policy action as society looks for quick fixes for complex issues that are not solved by taking firearms away from law-abiding firearms owners.
We have seen the firearms community be scapegoated several times over the years with the long gun registry and other gun control measures. This erosion of our interests will not lead to the firearms future we want or the increased public safety we need.
The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement in the Canada Gazette states that "An option to participate in a grandfathering regime would also be made available for affected owners. Further public communications on the buy-back program and the grandfathering regime will follow later." The OFAH received clarification from government that grandfathering is still being considered as an option for currently owned firearms that are now prohibited. A grandfathering option for prohibited firearms would need to go through Parliament. It is expected that buyback and/or grandfathering programs for the newly prohibited firearms would need to occur before the two-year amnesty period ends, meaning that the introduction of a Bill to deal with this would occur in the very near future. The most important thing is for the firearms classification system to be standardized, evidence-based, transparent, and clear. A system that makes sense will prevent the need to even talk about grandfathering, but given the clear track the government is on, it is also important to maintain all possible options to protect the lawfully purchased property interests of firearms owners.
The OFAH has made the following recommendations:
- Offer firearms owners a grandfathering option to allow Canadians to maintain their lawfully purchased firearms.
- Permit the continued transport and use of the newly prohibited firearms, under the strict provisions governing restricted firearms.
The government has said they will be offering ‘fair compensation’ as part of a buy-back program with the banned firearms. What is the opposition to that?
The government intends to implement a buy-back program during the amnesty period "to compensate affected owners for the value of their firearms after they are delivered to a police officer". If mandatory (no grandfathering), then it not only means that firearms will be taken away from law-abiding citizens, but also create a false sense of security, and siphon critical taxpayer-funded resources away from actions that could significantly enhance public safety.
The OFAH has made the following recommendations:
- Any buy-back program for prohibited firearms should be completely voluntary, and therefore requires a grandfathering option for those who wish to keep their firearms.
- Any buy-back program that respects Canadian firearm owners and provides ‘fair compensation’ must evaluate both fair market and replacement values, and offer the higher of the two prices for all prohibited firearms.
- Use all financial resources saved by implementing a voluntary buy-back program (i.e. money that doesn’t need to be paid out to owners who their firearms)to invest directly in relevant social programs, police services, CBSA, and the Canadian justice system to help reduce gun violence.
The regulations and Amnesty Order came into effect immediately (12:01am May 1, 2020). The government's stated intention of the amnesty is to "protect individuals, who were in lawful possession of one or more of the newly prohibited firearms on the day the Regulations came into force, from criminal liability for unlawful possession for the purpose of allowing individuals to come into compliance with the law." The Amnesty Order expires on April 30, 2022.
The government has outlined the following rules and recommendations for the newly prohibited firearms:
- May not be used for hunting or sport shooting, either at a range or elsewhere, unless provided in the amnesty.
- Prohibited firearms may not be bought, sold, lent, or imported.
- They may not be transported, unless provided in the amnesty.
- They must be stored in accordance with the storage regulations for the firearm class prior to prohibition.
- Lawful owners may export a prohibited firearm if they have proper export authorizations.
- Lawful owners may contact police of jurisdiction to arrange disposal without compensation.
- Owners must not bring the firearm to a police station unless they have made an appointment to surrender it.
The OFAH has recommended that the use and transport of firearms should not be prohibited during the amnesty period.
In a May 28, 2020 letter to Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair, the OFAH made a series of recommendations based on a comprehensive analysis of the federal government’s recent regulation amendments (SOR/2020-96).
- Take immediate steps to minimize the damage of these harmful regulations by repealing them and replacing them with a measured policy response that is evidence-based and will have maximum enhancements to public safety with minimum impact on responsible firearms owners.
Unnecessary consequences of the amended regulations
- Acknowledge the unnecessary consequences of the amended regulations and mitigate them as soon as possible; and,
- Exhaust all possible non-regulatory and alternative regulatory measures available to further reduce gun violence and mass shootings prior to implementing a ban that will have significant negative impact on law-abiding Canadians and the Canadian economy.
Reducing gun violence in Canada
- Address gun violence directly. Taking firearms away from law-abiding Canadians won’t reduce the demand for illicit firearms by criminals;
- Invest in a deeper look at the root of issues and immediately commit to tackling the social determinants of gun violence, gangs, and the demand for illicit firearms;
- Continue investments in the Canada Border Services Agency by providing the tools and resources needed to stop the flow of illegal firearms into Canada;
- Make further investments in police services at all levels to tackle gangs, organized crime, and the market for illegal firearms;
- Invest in the justice system with the capacity and policies needed to keep criminals in jail; and,
- Show leadership in the coordination of police services across the country to better flag suspicious purchases and other firearm-related criminal offences.
- Use clear, transparent, and evidence-based classification criteria that aren’t redundant with existing prohibitions;
- Sweeping reclassifications of firearms must be accompanied by adequate regulatory consultation and preparation to minimize unnecessary negative consequences;
- Acknowledge that the May 1, 2020 reclassification of firearms is almost entirely based on a model-ban approach, and the stated classification criteria are not actually the defining characteristics for the newly prohibited firearms; and,
- Publicly clarify that ‘machine guns’, fully automatic firearms, electrical and mechanical devices that increase rate of fire, and large-capacity magazines are already prohibited in Canada, meaning that the amended regulations do not actually provide any functional coverage for gaps in policy.
Bore diameter prohibition (larger than 20mm)
- Immediately repeal and replace with a prohibition that specifically prescribes grenade launchers or a more explicit description (e.g. 20mm+ bore diameter anddesigned to deliver an explosive payload);
- If a bore diameter prohibition is used, it must provide exemptions for shotguns and other common firearms that are not the intended target of this prohibition; and,
- As long as the current bore diameter prohibition remains in effect, the government must immediately provide legal clarification that offers the certainty needed by firearms owners and businesses.
Muzzle energy prohibition (more than 10,000 joules)
- Immediately repeal and replace with a clear and transparent prescribed list of firearms that the government intends to prohibit.
Firearms for hunting and sporting purposes
- More clearly define the terminology of ‘reasonable for hunting and sporting purposes’ with detailed rationalization for how thresholds were determined; and,
- Address how the amended regulations are consistent with the related restriction on regulation-making powers of the Governor In Council.
Government communication with firearms community
- Establish a regularly updated webpage that clearly identifies the firearms that have been reclassified as prohibited since May 1, 2020; and,
- Do everything to ensure that police and prosecutorial discretion is used to eliminate any criminal liability under the circumstances of this officially induced error.
- The maximum storage period and fees for shipments held at the Canadian border must be waived, as well as the export permit process be expedited due to the current circumstances caused by officially induced error;
- Take all possible steps to alleviate the high degree of uncertainty that will have immediate and lingering impacts on the businesses and economies that rely on firearms; and,
- Clarify, with as much legal certainty as possible, the list of firearms captured under the prohibitions, including consistency in interpretations among government agencies such as the RCMP and CBSA.
- The use and transport of newly prohibited firearms should be permitted during the amnesty period.
- Should be completely voluntary, and therefore, requires a grandfathering option for those who wish to keep their firearms;
- Must evaluate both values (fair market and replacement) and offer the higher of the two prices for all prohibited firearms in order to respect Canadian firearm owners and provides ‘fair compensation’;
- There must be an industry-specific component that reflects robust consultation with the industry and provides full compensation for all products that are now prohibited or specific to prohibited firearms;
- Should include all products and accessories specific to newly prohibited firearms; and,
- Use all financial resources saved by implementing a voluntary buy-back program (i.e. money that doesn’t need to be paid out to owners who retain their firearms), and invest it directly in relevant social programs, police services, CBSA, and the Canadian justice system to help reduce gun violence.
- Must offer firearms owners a grandfathering option to allow Canadians to maintain their lawfully purchased firearms; and,
- The continued transport and use of the newly prohibited firearms, under the strict provisions governing restricted firearms, must be fully explored during grandfathering discussions.
The OFAH has been actively involved the entire time. We have been engaged in political meetings, government standing committee hearings, policy submissions, public communications and dialogue with our membership in an effort to bring together hunting groups from across the country to advocate for firearms under the banner of the National Fishing and Hunting Collaborative.
Since May 1, 2020 the OFAH has been extremely engaged in this discussion, from a variety of perspectives. OFAH advocacy and action includes:
- meeting with Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair;
- engaged in regular dialogue with government officials from Public Safety Canada and the RCMP to get clarity on the regulations;
- published a FAQ to help firearms owners understand what is happening;
- connected with industry to understand the ongoing and future concerns for the firearms supply chain;
- talked to hundreds of concerned OFAH members;
- completed a full-scale analysis of the amended regulations; and,
- sent a comprehensive letter to Minister Blair outlining our questions and concerns.
Additional information on OFAH’s firearms advocacy can be found at www.ofah.org/firearms.
We have heard from many OFAH members with a wide spectrum of opinions, and it is apparent that the firearms community doesn’t uniformly align in their perspectives on the firearms policies currently being debated. The only consensus we’ve seen is that there is no consensus. The primary reason we cannot align or partner with other firearms organizations is that they have very hardline positions. These positions represent the interests of their members, but don’t necessarily align with the diversity of firearms interests that the OFAH represents. We will continue to strongly advocate for all law-abiding and responsible firearms owners, and do it in a way that respects our mandate and the broad spectrum of opinions. This is why we tend to partner with other hunting organizations, often under the National Fishing and Hunting Collaborative (NFHC), who have similar mandates and membership perspectives.
There is greater strength in looking at and approaching an issue from multiple different angles. We are all heading in the same direction and there is nothing wrong with different advocacy groups taking different paths to get there. The entire firearms community, regardless of interest or opinion right now, will benefit from this approach. Both paths are complementary and necessary to achieve better outcomes for firearms owners.
Legal challenges are always a possibility with the right argument at the right time. Many challenges have already been launched and more are likely with different individuals, groups, and businesses tackling this in very different ways. The OFAH has been engaged by a few different groups asking us to participate by offering our expertise and advice as evidence during these legal proceedings. While we don’t intend to launch our own legal action, we will continue to explore opportunities for us to participate in ways that will positively influence the legal outcomes for responsible firearms owners.
Many battles have been fought with legal counsel and legal interpretations, and the OFAH has been at the centre of many over the years. That experience has shown us that the war is only won with overwhelming majority of public opinion, as well as broader political buy-in that gets past the partisan nature of party politics. The dialogue it takes to achieve a broader social understanding and acceptance of firearms is where the OFAH believes we play the strongest role in representing gun owners. For our long-term firearms future, the court of public opinion will be just as important as the courts themselves. And the current dialogue has clearly shown us that we have a long way to go, even within the firearms community itself. Changing perceptions will require dedicated and strong public education and political advocacy from the OFAH.
Our decision to not formally launch a judicial review does not suggest that the legal route that other groups are now on is wrong; in fact, we wish them well. There is greater strength in looking at and approaching an issue from multiple different angles. We are all heading in the same direction and there is nothing wrong with different groups taking different paths to get there. The entire firearms community, regardless of interest or opinion right now, will benefit from this approach. Both paths are complementary and necessary to achieve better outcomes for firearms owners.
The OFAH is not seeking weaker gun laws; we are asking for the government and others to stop pretending that we don't have strict firearms laws in Canada. The government is purposely misleading people to believe that our existing laws are responsible for the public safety issues they are trying to solve.
There are many misconceptions, even among licensed firearms owners, about the laws governing ownership and use of restricted firearms in Canada. The terminology (i.e. military-style assault rifles) and misinformation that has been perpetuated by government, media and gun control advocates causes many people to support stricter gun laws under the false pretense that it will address things that are already restricted or even prohibited in Canada. Canada has strict firearms laws, which far exceed restrictions in the United States. Automatic firearms are already prohibited. Concealed carry is already illegal. Magazine capacity is already restricted. Barrel length is already restricted. Transportation of restricted firearms is closely regulated (with authorization and locked). Restricted firearms can only be fired at a Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) approved range.
“The Amnesty Order permits the use of any of the newly prohibited firearms, if previously non-restricted, to hunt for the purposes of sustenance or to exercise a right recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution." The exemption is intended to be temporary to allow for continued use by Indigenous hunters during the amnesty period ‘until a suitable replacement can be obtained’. This suggests that firearms on the list are used for hunting, despite the government's unwavering messages that the newly prohibited firearms are not "reasonable for use in Canada for hunting or sporting purposes," and the regulations are intended to "address gun violence and the threat to public safety by assault-style firearms". The government has indicated the apparent discrepancy is related to the fact that these firearms are being used by Indigenous hunters in Canada even if they are not ‘designed’ to be used for hunting in Canada (see question above for more details about the government’s rationale for including hunting firearms). Therefore, a prohibition on use would impact their S. 35 Constitutional harvesting rights and why they have granted a temporary exception.
You can start by having respectful and constructive dialogue on social media, inside and outside of the firearms community, that helps eliminate unproductive infighting among firearms owners and presents a positive image of the firearms community to all Canadians. You should also consider writing your local MP with your concerns; signing petitions(here and here) that challenge the prohibitions and the way they were enacted; subscribe to OFAH e-news for updates and join the OFAH.
Last modified on June 9th, 2020 at 11:29 am.