Gun control… again

The Liberals tabled Bill C-21 in Parliament, which would effectively put a freeze on importing, buying, and selling handguns.

Hello Flatlanders,

Since Canada’s public safety minister Marco Mendicino was in Regina last week talking about the federal government’s proposed changes to the firearms legislation, I thought it would be a good time to revisit gun control.

Since I last wrote about gun legislation in early May (Gun violence is rampant in rural Saskatchewan and Manitoba), the Liberals tabled Bill C-21 in Parliament, which would effectively put a freeze on importing, buying, and selling handguns.

What does Bill C-21 say?

You can keep your handgun if you already own one, you just can’t buy a new one.

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You can sell your handgun to an exempt individual or business. Exemptions are given to high-performance sports shooting athletes, those who carry firearms for their jobs, as well as authorized gunsmiths.

Gun retailers hate the proposed bill

Limiting their profit potential. The proposed handgun purchasing freeze received blowback from gun retailers, since they wouldn’t be able to sell new handguns if the bill passes.

Inventory already reduced. Gun retailers were already cheesed that, back in 2020, the government banned 1,500-gun models described as “military-grade assault riffles.”

People collect guns. What I found from having informal conversations with Prairie gun owners over the last few weeks is that they don’t just own one or two weapons, they own between nine and 12.

Buying and selling guns is big business. If you’re like me and have never bought a gun, you can check out a price list of shotguns here, or here’s a list of what handguns cost at TnT Gunworks in Regina.

Expensive rare collector handguns will set you back as much as $8,900, so collecting can be an investment, barring any changes to the legislation where a gun is suddenly disallowed by the government.

Business will be cut in half if the handgun freeze passes into law, said Darryl Tomlinson, owner of the Canadian Gun Guys in Winnipeg.

Handguns are flying off the shelf before Bill C-21 passes

Panic buying. Handguns began selling out as soon as Bill C-21 was tabled last week, and people realized they might not be able to buy any new ones.

Prairie gun stores busy.North Pro Sports in Saskatoon reported to the Star-Phoenix that they have seen an uptick in sales since Bill C-21 was tabled. Back Forty Guns and Gear in Saskatoon is also busy. And the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation saw a surge in people wanting to buy or renew memberships.

Out of business? Even though gun sales are booming now, Tomlinson from the Canadian Gun Guys told Newsweek: “It’s a Catch-22; we’re busy now, but I fear we’re going to be put out of business in the fall.”

Gun owners don’t like Bill C-21

Misunderstood. Moose Jaw Today went to the South Saskatchewan Wildlife Association gun range and talked to people there about Bill C-21. Basically, the gun owners felt like their fellow Canadians don’t understand their hobby and how regulated it is.

GETTY IMAGES.

Bill C-21 isn’t just a handgun freeze, it toughens laws and protects vulnerable people

The bill also proposes that:

  • Firearm licences be revoked from those found guilty of domestic violence and/or criminal harassment
  • The Red Flag Law – People would have to surrender their guns to law enforcement if they are flagged as a risk to themselves or others.
  • Criminal penalties could be increased for those caught smuggling and trafficking firearms. The maximum sentence for this offence would increase from 10 years to 14 if the bill is passed.
  • The Yellow Flag Law – A chief firearms officer could temporarily suspend an individual’s firearms license for 30 days if they suspect the person in question is involved in some sort of illegal activity, like straw purchasing. This is where someone with a firearms license buys a gun legally and then sells it illegally to someone who can’t qualify for a firearms license.
  • It would become illegal to alter a cartridge magazine to exceed its lawful capacity, and police would be allowed to use wiretaps to investigate this crime. If busted for altering a cartridge magazine, you could face five years in jail.
  • Violence couldn’t be used in gun advertising
  • You would need a firearms license to buy ammunition
  • Restrict people from coming into Canada if they have a criminal record that includes firearm offences

The provinces weigh in on Bill C-21

Bill C-21 is virtual signalling said Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. He said the handgun freeze targets law-abiding gun owners. Saskatchewan’s chief firearms officer Robert Freberg also thought the freeze was unfair.

The federal government has been consulting with the provinces on Bill C-21. Manitoba, for instance, formed an advisory group to review Bill C-21 when it first went through Parliament and died on the table before the federal election last year.

“Although there are some portions of the legislation that we support, we feel the proposed legislation unfairly targets legal firearm owners,” Blaine Pedersen, the former Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development Minister, said in a news release last year. “The evidence is clear that hunters, trappers, sport shooters and rural landowners are not the issue when it comes to firearm related crimes.”

Flatlander readers weigh in on guns:

In response to the past issue from May 10: “Gun violence is rampant in rural Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” several readers shared their thoughts:

Ron wrote:

I have been using firearms since I was 12 and have been hunting since I was 16 (I’m 67 now). I own I think around nine various firearms at present, all of them being long guns used for hunting with the usual low-capacity clips.

I see no reason to own a handgun, assault rifle or any firearm that is only good for shooting people and not for game.

If I were to bring an AR15 out to the bush to hunt, I would be at best laughed out of there or at worst avoided by all my hunter friends.

The only time I would ever consider owning a handgun or assault rifle is if they legalized their ownership in Canada, at which point I would have to defend myself from the dopes out there carrying firearms all of a sudden [because they would have handguns and assault rifles].

Ban non-hunting guns and keep them banned.

Ron asked some questions, and I tried and find the answers for him.

How many [gun] deaths are from suicide?

Suicide accounts for approximately 4,000 deaths a year in Canada.

About 16 per cent of those suicides are by firearm, so about 640 deaths.

Men are much more likely to commit suicide by firearm than women.

Only three per cent of women kill themselves by firearm, whereas about 20 per cent of men will use a gun.
 
Firearm suicide can be impulsive when someone is drinking. This isn’t the case for other methods of suicide.
 
According to one study, firearm suicides dropped in a community after Canada passed a law in 1991 that required people buying a gun to have two personal reference checks, as well as a required spousal endorsement, photo identification, safety training involving written and practical testing, psychological questionnaires, and a mandatory waiting period prior to obtaining a Firearms Acquisition Certificate. (I guess regulatory hurdles take away some of the spontaneity of killing oneself by firearm).
 
How many are accidental deaths as in someone cleaning their gun and stupidly looks down the barrel and shoots themselves or someone next to them?
 
I couldn’t find any specific stats around gun cleaning accidents. However, firearms accidents do happen, and the Prairies have a higher rate of firearm accidents than the rest of Canada.
 
About 240 Canadians are hospitalized each year due to the accidental discharge of a firearm.
 
Saskatchewanians tend to injure themselves the most with firearms—triple the national average.
 
Manitoba comes in second for the most amount of firearm accidents, followed by Alberta.
 
Quebec has the lowest amount of firearm accidents.
 
Accidental shootings kill about 13 people each year, on average, according to Statistics Canada.
 
How many are from actual crime as in using a gun to commit a crime?
 
This depends on what one means by crime. One can use a gun for murder, aggravated assault, or armed robbery, for instance.
 
If we are talking gun deaths between 2000 and 2016:

  • 75 per cent of gun deaths were suicide
  • 20 per cent were homicides
  • Two per cent were accidental
  • One per cent were police shootings
  • One per cent were of undetermined cause

In total, suicides accounted for 9,919 of the 13,168 gun deaths in Canada from 2000 to 2016, this could be why the police are onboard with the red flag law part of Bill C-21.

How many are from “crimes of passion” as in a drunk guy is playing cards and gets mad at someone cheating then pulls out a firearm and shoots someone. So not intending to shoot someone but flips out and the closest thing around him is a loaded gun?

I couldn’t find any stats related to crimes of passion. Anecdotally, as someone who has spent a lot of time in a courthouse covering various criminal proceedings, I can say drugs and alcohol are disproportionately involved in crimes, and a fair number of them are committed impulsively.

In Canada, one is supposed to unload a gun before putting it away in a gun safe, which makes it harder to impulsively shoot your friend while playing cards. In America, where in some States it is legal to carry a concealed loaded handgun, it is a lot easier to shoot your friend on a whim. Again, this is anecdotal, but Canada is not America when it comes to gun deaths.

Last year, CNN ran an article about What lessons can Canada teach America about deadly gun violence?

And the New York Times had a recent piece about Why Canada Races on Gun Policy When America Crawls.

We are definitely very different countries.


Dennis wrote in to say gun laws are against law-abiding citizens, and many people would agree with him.

He also speculated that many gun crimes are gang related. And Saskatchewan does have 29 different street gangs active in Regina, Prince Albert, and Saskatoon. And Winnipeg police estimate there are 1,500 full gang members in the city and 2,500 associates.

But again, what is a gun crime? Guns are also used in domestic violence. Abusers sometimes threaten their spouses with their legally-owned firearms. Uttering threats with a weapon is a crime.

Over the last month, there have been 10 firearm-related incidents that police in Saskatchewan and Manitoba deemed news-release worthy.


Harley wrote: stolen guns can get into the wrong hands for sure but illegally imported guns are by far more prone to be used in crimes. I wish you had some facts about how many of the guns were stolen and how many were brought into Canada illegally.

It’s a little tricky to pinpoint how many guns are smuggled into Canada and how many are stolen.

Last year, Canadian Border Services Agency officers seized 753 illegal firearms at all entry points into Canada. That’s how many they found. They don’t have a number for how many they didn’t find.

Meanwhile, the Saskatoon Police Chief said most guns used in crimes were stolen and not smuggled in from the U.S. But he is speaking specifically to his experience in Saskatoon only.

Whereas, Winnipeg police flagged the city’s trucking transportation hub Centreport as possibly being linked to gun smuggling.

For my part, I spent a lot of time trying to find recent stats for how many guns are reported stolen in Canada in a year. I couldn’t find any recent data.

I could find stats for 1994 all the way to 2004, and basically the number varies from year to year. Using that data, it seems in a good year, about 2,700 guns are reported stolen. In a bad year, about 5,100 guns are stolen.

However, Canada’s police services seized some 26,351 guns by law enforcement across Canada in 2019. Only 1,768 guns were traced.

The RCMP’s numbers include firearms seized, turned in or found by police.

There is no national data specifically on guns used in crimes and where they come from.

In 2021, Winnipeg police seized more than 1,300 firearms, 850 of which investigators call “crime guns.”

In September 2020, police linked a gun seized in Winnipeg to two crimes in Toronto, and another firearm seized in Winnipeg to a crime in Vancouver, so guns are moving around.

Anyhow, none of the numbers really add up in any meaningful way. It seems like there are a lot of guns out there, and the police aren’t sure where a lot of them are coming from. They are either stolen, smuggled or bought illegally via straw purchasing.


Five stories from Manitoba you may have missed

  1. Military explosive devices discovered in two Manitoba First Nations
  2. Skydiver killed in Gimli accident was beloved Manitoba film veteran
  3. Sagkeeng First Nation’s search of former residential school site uncovers 190 radar anomalies
  4. Livestock advocate raising concerns over potential pig waste in Red River
  5. Sky-high fuel prices encouraging more Manitobans to commute by bike

Five stories from Saskatchewan you may have missed

  1. Disciplinary hearing underway for Sask. engineer who designed bridge that collapsed hours after opening
  2. Craft alcohol industry needs more oversight: Sask. auditor
  3. Saskatchewan is the cheapest province in Canada to buy a house
  4. Nurse practitioners want bigger role to fill Sask. primary care gap
  5. A story of two fathers who lost their sons in the Humboldt bus crash was featured in Esquire Magazine

Photo of the week

Saskatchewan from above. GETTY IMAGES.

Until next week…

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Thanks for reading, and kind regards,

Kelly-Anne Riess

Important work at a critical time.

Over the last 20 years, on the Prairies and beyond,  local newsrooms have shrunk, which means not much investigative journalism gets done in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Flatlander is changing this.

 

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