BC reconsiders range restrictions

The provincial government has reconsidered and rejected several new regulations that could have shut down more than 100 practice ranges across BC.

The Honourable Minister of Public Safety and the Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, has decided that the new requirements affecting shooting ranges will not proceed, after a concerted effort by the BCWF and member clubs to point out the unintended consequences of Bill 4.

Led by BCWF president Chuck Zuckerman and recreational shooting sports committee chair Doug Bancroft, the team met and communicated in writing several times with ministry staff to explain the consequences of draft regulations proposed by the implementation of Bill 4 affecting range operations, educational outreach on firearms safety, and hunting.

Many member clubs also communicated in writing and in meetings with their MLAs about the complications that would be created by Bill 4.

Under the Bill, verification of multiple pieces of ID would be mandatory at all ranges on entry.  This would require dedicated “commissionaires” to inspect and verify the ID and person IDs at the range entrance; well beyond existing Range Safety Officers (RSO) required on the actual shooting range, as currently required by federal law. In most cases, this would require paid staff potentially adding up to $150,000 in employee costs, plus infrastructure changes, record keeping, and information storage.

While some larger gun ranges could survive this substantive increase in operating costs, it is almost certain that dozens of small- and medium-sized ranges in BC would shut down under such a financial burden.

“Ranges provide a safe, controlled environment for shooters to learn, practice and improve their skills,” said BCWF executive director Jesse Zeman. “Many of our ranges are remote and run exclusively by volunteers as a public service. Closing these ranges would have resulted in more people heading out to the woods to shoot in uncontrolled spaces. This is already a growing issue on the Lower Mainland where ranges have been closed by municipalities.  Municipalities and the province should support safe, well-run ranges, rather than pushing people out into the woods.”

The potential public safety risks, and environmental contamination were all grave concerns to the BC Wildlife Federation. The threat of $5,000 fines proposed in the bill for volunteers, or low-wage paid staff would deter people filling these positions.  A $100,000 fine for not being fully compliant could force the closure of a club. Both would have deterred participation of volunteer directors and executives who keep ranges and clubs operating.

Range closures and onerous requirements could also have ripple effects on the law enforcement community, the BCWF warned.

Many of BC’s rod and gun clubs host mandated training for municipal police, RCMP, Sherriff services, Conservation Officers, Federal Fisheries Officers, Park Wardens, private security firms such as Brinks.

Restrictions on the use of firearms and ammunition in educational settings may also be reconsidered.

Members of our clubs regularly engage in hunting and firearms safety training with students at schools and in church-based meeting spaces. This includes Environmental Education, the BCWF CORE course, required to obtain a hunting license, and the Canadian Firearms Safety Course.  The training is often at the request of the school and such event are normally sanctioned by the teachers, parents, school board and the local RCMP detachment. This is a valuable pre-range day experience for the students to understand the principles of firearms safety.  It makes the actual range day much easier to facilitate and increases the safety of the participants on range day as they have a clearer understanding of firearms use.

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