More work needed on firearms legislation says VP of National Firearms Association

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney announced last week changes coming to the Firearms Licensing Act.

We are now less than a month away from the September 2nd effective date for two additional changes to the Harper Government’s Common Sense Firearms Licencing Act.

One is the elimination of the Possession Only Licence, and conversion to Possession and Acquisition Licenses.

The other sees the Authorization to Transport becoming a condition of a licence for certain routine and lawful activities.

Blair Hagen is the Executive Vice-President of Communications for the National Firearms Association

“They’ve recognized some of the failures of the firearms act and it looks like they’ve taken steps in Bill C-42 to address them. However, these amendments while well intentioned don’t substantially solve all of the problems historically that we’ve been suffering with this farm sack that’s been in place since 1995. They’re on the right track however, we need new legislation to substantively solve all of these problems rather than amendments to some of the more egregious or apparent ones.”

Asked about the key concerns of the NFA, he focussed first on the licencing portion of the Firearms Act.

“What people have to remember here is this is a mandatory licence for the simple ownership or possession of property, and those are firearms. If you did not get one after the deadline in 1998 or if you never had one you are committing a criminal offence. Up until recently if you allowed your firearms licence to expire you automatically became a criminal.

They’ve basically put an amnesty for that since they got elected in 2006 and in C-42 they’re granting a six month amnesty for people who allow their licenses to expire before they actually criminalize themselves. I think they have recognized the licensing portion of the act has failed, however it doesn’t fundamentally change the nature of the license. As long as that’s the case there are Canadians who are going to allow the license to expire and go beyond that six month amnesty and become actual criminals and that’s still going to be wrong.”

Mr. Hagen listed as another major Association concern the RCMP Swiss Arms and CZ 858 reclassification, acknowledging and applauding the Harper government’s intervention.

While calling for new legislation Mr. Hagen gave the Harper Government credit for moving in the right direction on a number of issues including its reversal of the RCMP Swiss Arms CZ-858 reclassification.

“At the time the government stepped in and imposed an amnesty on that to prevent people from being criminalized or having the property confiscated. The apparent reversal under C-42 is certainly a good step and I think it’s one of the acid tests of this particular piece of legislation.”

And that took us to the NFA priorities on proposals for new legislation.

“Basically there’s certain fundamental aspects of the firearms act that they have to address. That’s the issue of rights and property. Under the current firearms act you must hold a firearms licence simply to be in possession of your own property. If it expires you potentially criminalize yourself and that’s a problem. We’re not talking about a license or safety course to prove competency. We’re talking about a mandatory license for the simple ownership of property and that’s simply unacceptable. That’s un-Canadian and that cannot be tolerated.

I think the government has to change the licensing system to reflect that. Secondly it’s the treatment of that property. As we’ve seen there’s an agenda to progressively reclassify and prohibit firearms and confiscate them. There have been some classes of firearms confiscated even under this government. Until new legislation is introduced to prevent a future government from doing that, we’re all going to be under the gun.”

Again we note the NFA sees only as a step in the right direction the changes coming next month to eliminate the Possession Only Licence, with conversion to Possession and Acquisition Licences, and to see Authorization to Transportation become a condition of a licence for certain routine and lawful activities.

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