A proposed ban on handgun imports will do little to make Canadians safer while boosting the firearms black market, says a Red Deer outdoors shop owner.
“I don’t think it will help at all,” said Dale Malin, owner of The Sportsmen’s Den. “It just makes the black market weapons worth more.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced last week that it will ban the import of restricted handguns into the country. The policy change is being made through regulatory restrictions rather than going through Parliament for approval. The new rules take effect on Aug. 19.
Federal Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said the measure is a “stopgap” measure while the government’s more sweeping handgun legislation works its way through the parliamentary process.
Gun control legislation unveiled in May includes a national freeze on the importation, purchase, sale and transfer of handguns in Canada. Parliament took its summer break before the legislation was passed so it will not be debated by MPs again until the fall.
Customers are both disappointed and in disbelief at the government’s misguided steps to tackle the issue of gun violence, said Malin.
“You try not to believe he can do it, but I guess he can.”
There is also plenty of confusion about what the government’s no-transfer clause will mean for handgun owners should that be made law.
“What does that mean? So, if you buy a handgun that’s it. You can’t transfer it or will it to anybody? There are so many questions that haven’t been answered on this.”
The steady stream of new gun measures has prompted many gun owners to make new weapons purchases to stay ahead of new regulations.
“(Trudeau) is my best salesman right now,” said Malin. “Right now, we’re selling lots of handguns.”
Canadian trade data shows $26.4 million in pistols and revolvers were imported into Canada in the first six months this year, up nearly 53 per cent over the same period last year.
Malin said what frustrates many gun owners is that they feel the new laws do nothing to address the problem they are aimed at — the illegal firearms trade.
“They’re trying to stop illegal guns coming across the border because it’s big business. I don’t think it’s going to help at all. I think the illegal guns are going to still keep coming across the border.”
Not only will they not stop gun smuggling, but overly restrictive regulations put law-abiding gun owners in the position of breaking the rules to buy and sell guns as they once did.
“It’s going to make the legal guys illegal because they’re just going to say ‘piss on it,’” he said.
For Canada’s gun sellers and sportsmen’s shops, the handgun restrictions will further cut into sales, both in the weapons themselves and the sale of ammunition and related products. Other critics have pointed out it was also hurt an industry that employs thousands of Canadians.
Alberta Chief Firearms Officer Teri Bryant shares the view the new regulations do nothing to keep communities safer.
”All lawful handgun imports are already available only to the most carefully vetted and law-abiding citizens with appropriate licences,” she said in a statement.
“Stopping legal imports will do nothing to end the illegal trade in firearms that is fueling violence across Canada. Instead it will only limit the choices available to law-abiding recreational firearms users. Punishing the innocent will not deter the guilty.”
“The Federal Government must stop targeting law-abiding citizens, which it has repeatedly done with its Order in Council firearms prohibitions, proposed handgun freeze and now handgun import ban.”
Bryant said she will continue to advocate for “effective, evidence-based approaches to pubic safety,” and urged Albertans to contact their MPs.
Not all believe the government is on the wrong track with its efforts.
The Coalition for Gun Control, formed after the deadly 1989 École Polytechnique mass shooting in Montreal, supports a national ban on handguns as well as assault weapons. The coalition says nearly seven in 10 Canadians agree with a handgun ban.