Just before midnight on January 19, 2022, Council for the Town of Grimsby repealed their recently revised discharge of firearms by-law, reverting to an older version (by-law No. 20-62) which now prohibits the discharge of all firearms, including bows within their boundaries (also includes paintball, airgun and slingshots).
For decades, the OFAH has led the advocacy charge on discharge of firearms by-laws, working with municipalities across the province to address their public safety concerns, while representing our members and the broader hunting community to ensure that overly restrictive discharge by-laws are not implemented. This advocacy goes back many years, though last year alone, we were actively involved in five different discharge of firearm by-law reviews, including one with the Town of Grimsby.
HISTORY WITH GRIMSBY
We have worked with the Town of Grimsby more than once on this topic dating back to 2008, with more recent active discussions on discharge of firearm bylaws occurring since 2020. This involvement has included countless meetings, telephone conversations and emails with staff and members of council, as well as presentations and representation at public meetings, and council meetings, in addition to other outreach to ensure OFAH members know what’s happening in their home community. Our official comments, suggestions and recommendations are often used in other areas, but to be clear, we don’t ultimately write or approve the by-laws. We are a resource in these situations as staff and council are often unaware of the existing rules and regulations as it relates to hunting, trapping and other firearm use. We also advocate directly with municipalities to help ensure the interests of hunters, trappers and sport shooters are heard and understood during these discussions.
Our direct involvement with Grimsby is deeply rooted, and we appeared to have an amicable, professional working relationship with the municipality on these files. That is, until some residents began complaining about people duck hunting out on Lake Ontario, which essentially launched a campaign of sorts to ban hunting. This then led to individuals attempting to discredit the OFAH, our work and efforts in Grimsby.
Fast forward to January 19, and this issue hit a boiling point with council’s decision to repeal the bylaw. This situation serves as a prime example of what can happen when rash decisions are made without having and/or relying on the facts. With everything that did occur, the OFAH remains committed to working with staff and council on this issue. While we may not always agree on all aspects, there is always room for mutual respect.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
Council had already passed a resolution directing staff to review the existing by-law, make a couple of amendments, and then bring it back to be debated at the next council meeting, scheduled early in February. The amendments were to address the discharge of firearms on Lake Ontario and to review a small section of property near a park that currently permits the use bows. Further investigation, review, and debate would have been the prudent strategy to address any outstanding questions.
But that’s not what happened. What happened next was actually nothing short of mind-boggling. I sat in front of the computer screen and watched in disbelief as a councilor, clearly not satisfied with that decision, called for an Emergency Resolution to repeal the current discharge of firearms by-law, and revert back to the earlier version.
What was the emergency resolution based on? Facts? Nope. The late goose hunting season. Clearly not a justifiable public safety concern. No, goose hunting was the emergency. Unfortunately, this ‘emergency’ resolution was called and passed based on nothing more than opinions on hunting, an unfounded sense of public safety gains, and simply wrong information.
But here is the cherry on top of this by-law fumble. The Town of Grimsby passed a resolution to approve Sunday gun hunting many, many years ago, meaning, they don’t actually have a late goose hunting season. Isn’t this something you would expect councilors to know if they were going to take such drastic measures based on that claim?
I can’t make this stuff up. It happened, and my mind is still blown. I have seen a lot of hasty uninformed decisions related to firearms by municipal councils over the years, but this one right here might take the cake.
To recap: Council presented, debated, and ultimately passed a resolution based on false information related to hunting, and not based on facts or an actual public safety concern. This was more about eliminating hunting rather than public safety, which, if we want to dig really deep on this, amounts to a decision that extends past the power of the municipality, specifically Section 119 of the municipal act, which speaks clearly about public safety.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
Be ready to voice those opinions at the next council meeting – you know those who support council’s decision will certainly be there speaking loudly in favour. You can rest assured that the Federation will be following up to challenge this unfounded and inappropriate action taken by council.
You can find contact information for Grismby council here.
CLICK HERE to view the discharge of firearms by-law in effect.
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