Reaction to the proposed Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act has been mixed, but mostly very positive.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney's July 23 announcement has landed in the middle of criticism emanating from both pro-gun and anti-gun extremists, which means it is probably very close to where the Harper government wants it to be. According to social media blogs and widespread media coverage, there appears to be overwhelming support for the minister's initiatives from gun owners and freedom-loving Canadians.
Minister Blaney was well-aware he was walking a tightrope over shark-infested waters by proposing changes to the current laws and easing restrictions to Swiss Arms and CZ-858 rifles. But, he chose to forge on despite imminent criticism. These are the politicians we need in Canada. With that said, Blaney knew there could be serious repercussions in the next election if the Conservative Party of Canada ignored the frustration growing within the firearms community.
Firearms dealers sitting on an inventory of Swiss Arms and CZ-858s got a raw deal, however, because they are still not allowed to sell these rifles – even though shooters can once again use them. The Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA) partner – Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA) – continues to appeal to Minister Blaney on the dealers' behalf. If it's permissible to own and operate these rifles, surely it should be permissible to buy and sell them. As always, the CSSA will continue to push for eliminating gun classifications altogether because delineating between “good vs. bad” guns has no bearing whatsoever on public safety. It's just more PR nonsense that criminals love to ignore.
The firearms file has never been easy to move forward because the Firearms Act is a legal quagmire. Minister Blaney – appointed to Public Safety just a year ago – got up to speed quickly on his portfolio. He soon pushed back hard against the RCMP and Chief Firearms Officers who conjure up anti-gun rules like students in a high school improv class. Since Blaney arrived, however, Public Safety civil servants have learned this minister has teeth.
The minister and his staff did their homework for these legislative changes by conferring with non-government experts who understand firearms, politics, communications and law. These skill sets combine to create legislation that can weather the rigours of debate and find support from the majority of Canadians who have to live with the legislation. Federal opposition parties will have trouble finding fault with Blaney's new bill beyond the shopworn anti-gun mantra that blood will run red in the streets. Gun owners can expect the long-gun registry debates revisited, and they should push hard for the same end result.
CSSA and Canadian Institute for Legislative Action (CILA) executive director Tony Bernardo is one of the experts that Minister Blaney spoke with often. It is no coincidence that Tony Bernardo and Greg Farrant of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters were singled out by the minister during his announcement as valuable consultants in this process. Blaney sought counsel from those who believe in improving firearms legislation without jeopardizing the safety of Canadians.
Thousands of gun owners offered opinions via social media following the minister's announcement in Powassan, Ontario. The following comment made by an anonymous blogger sums up the CSSA's posture perfectly:
“I think these are positive changes, not only in terms of practical things that affect us day to day, but in terms of attitude towards gun ownership.
“Instead of bitching here, people should be out at the CBC, Globe, NP, and every other site, saying that this is a welcome change, and that there is no threat to public safety. Answer the anti-gun rhetoric with calm, factual answers. Convince Canadians that gun owners do not present a threat to them. Convince the CPC that helping us will help the CPC in return. Then we make the next step forward.
“Politics is difficult, and you don't win every battle, but we are so much better off now than we were four years ago. This battle is a generation old, and we are clawing back lost ground for the first time. Keep fighting.”
Every gun owner knows the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act is not perfect and not enough. But, it's a good interim indication that this government still recognizes that gun owners have been brutalized by unfair laws for much too long. The Coalition for Gun Control's post-announcement media release complains that Canada is one of the only countries in the world that is moving backwards by weakening its gun controls. We beg to differ – Canada started moving backwards in the 1990s when the Firearms Act treated gun owners like criminals-in-waiting. Minister Blaney's new legislation is actually a step forward – and the beginning of returning gun rights to responsible Canadians.
The Coalition for Gun Control also grumbles that the gun lobby has bragged about its access to the prime minister and the proposed Act is the latest evidence. Newsflash to anti-gunners: A prime minister who listens to over two million lawful, licensed Canadians is simply doing his job.
And we are doing ours.