On February 16th 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced Bill C-21 to the House of Commons. The federal government has stated that this Bill was made to protect Canadians from gun violence, gang violence, gun smuggling & trafficking, combat spousal abuse, and self-harm involving firearms. While these are key issues in our society that are worthy of addressing, and should be addressed, our analysis finds nothing meaningful in this Bill to directly engage these concerns. Instead, C-21 has a disproportionate impact on lawful firearms owners, and does not give the victims of these complex societal issues the support and aid they need.
Municipal Handgun Bans
C-21 would enact new conditions on firearms licenses, allow municipalities to instate bylaws that would make the storage and transportation of handguns a criminal offence. As these is a new conditions are applied to the firearms license in particular, it is hard to believe this would have any positive impact on public safety. In reality, the vast majority of firearms used in violent crime are illegal firearms sourced from the United Stated, and used by gangs and traffickers who already act in flagrant disregard to the law. Statistics Canada confirms that firearms owners are among the least violent citizens in the country, and that legally purchased firearms are rarely involved in criminal violence, either through theft or ‘straw purchases’.
Ban and Buy-back Program
C-21 expands on the May 1st 2020 OiC, where about 1500 models and variants of firearms were reclassified as prohibited overnight, many of which were semi-automatic firearms used responsibly every day in Canada by hunters and sport shooters. The new Bill states that owners of firearms affected by the OiC who do not participate in the buyback program will be allowed to keep their rifles in storage with “no permitted use, no import, no further acquisition, no sale and no bequeathal“. At this time, there are no details on how the buyback program will work, or how lawful firearms owners will be compensated for participating.
Red and Yellow Flags
The proposed changes to red/yellow flag laws would expand existing laws almost infinitely, and violate due process in two separate ways:
- By allowing anyone to apply to the courts for a warrantless search and seizure of firearms, and
- Provide no provision for a person subject to such an order the opportunity to present their case before police arrive.
Furthermore, such a suspected “dangerous” individual doesn’t even have to own a firearm. A judge is only required to believe there is a weapon or that the person “might have access to any such thing”.
In a strange twist of priorities, Bill C-21 attempts to expand the definition of ‘replica firearm’ to include airsoft and pellet rifles. This would prohibit the sale, transfer, import, and export, effectively destroying a very popular sport for young adults and children. This poses a large risk to the airsoft sport and industry in Canada, and would likely see many businesses and groups across the country shut down for good.