BCWF calls for tougher sentences for firearms offences

The B.C. Wildlife Federation is calling on the Government of Canada to toughen sentences for firearms offences in light of recommendations released Thursday by the Mass Casualty Commission.  

The joint inquiry was created to provide input to the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia in the wake of a 2020 mass casualty event. However, since that time the federal government has introduced legislation to reduce or eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for serious crimes involving firearms.  

“Reducing sentences for gun crime makes no sense and will only embolden criminals and smugglers,” said BCWF Executive Director Jesse Zeman.    

“We need to address real public safety issues and that includes ensuring youth do not get into substance abuse and gangs, applying strict penalties for crimes involving firearms and stopping the flow of smuggled handguns across our border from the United States,” he added. “The target of public safety legislation should be criminals, not outdoors enthusiasts, hunters, and licensed firearm owners.”  

The federal government has moved to eliminate minimum sentences for crimes such as weapons trafficking, robbery with a firearm, extortion with a firearm, firearms smuggling, theft of a firearm and unauthorized possession of a restricted or prohibited firearm.  

The BCWF is concerned to see the commission is also recommending new restrictions on licensed owners of firearms, including re-establishing a firearms registry to further regulate the sales of ammunition.  

“A long-gun registry has been tried in the past, it cost taxpayers more than $1 billion and it didn’t work,” said Zeman. “The federal government has been trying to resurrect the registry for the past several years. It will fail again and cost hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars more in the process.”    

Further regulating law-abiding, licensed owners of firearms defies reason and Statistics Canada data.  

The Nova Scotia shooter did not hold a firearms Possession and Acquisition License (PAL), and all the weapons used during this tragic event were illegally obtained, three of them smuggled across the U.S. border.  

Licensed gun owners are demonstrably less likely to commit a crime than the average Canadian. Holders of a PAL are vetted carefully by the RCMP before a license is granted and the list of PAL holders is checked every 24 hours against the identities of people charged with criminal offences.    

The “continuous eligibility screening” program is administered by the RCMP to ensure that the owners of legally obtained firearms are not a threat to public safety.    

The statistics are clear.   

Licensed firearms holders are half as likely to be accused of a homicide than the average adult Canadian; as a group licensed firearms holders are some of the safest people in Canada.  Firearms owners know any criminal activity will prevent them from being able to feed their families or enjoy the sport they love.  

The BCWF fully supports the Commission’s recommendations to stem the flow of illegal firearms across our border, moves that will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  

“More than 90 per cent of gun-related crime in Canada is committed with firearms smuggled from the United States,” said Zeman. “Further regulating hunters and sport shooters is a waste of the RCMP’s time and Canadian taxpayers’ money, money that could be spent catching criminals.” 

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