Gun law a delicate balance between safety and rights, Easter says

Islanders concerned about proposed changes to Canada's firearms law have been contacting Malpeque MP Wayne Easter, who says Bill C-71 is intended to improve Canadians' safety and keep guns out of criminal's hands.

'What the government has tried to do here is to find the balance'

Islanders concerned about proposed new federal gun laws have been contacting Malpeque MP Wayne Easter. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Islanders concerned about proposed changes to Canada's firearms law have been contacting Malpeque MP Wayne Easter, who says Bill C-71 is intended to improve Canadians' safety and keep guns out of criminal's hands.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tabled the bill March 20, which includes amendments to regulations on the transportation of restricted and prohibited firearms such as handguns, as well as new requirements for retailers to keep gun sales records for 20 years.

Bill C-71 has passed second reading in the House of Commons and is now headed to the Public Safety Committee for public hearings.

"If they [gun owners] can document evidence that this really is going to be the burden that some claim it's going to be, then have it addressed before the committee," Easter said. "If the evidence is there, maybe there needs to be amendments made." 

If they [gun owners] can document evidence that this really is going to be the burden that some claim it's going to be, then have it addressed before the committee.— Wayne Easter

Under the new law, owners of restricted or prohibited firearms will need to obtain separate Authorization to Transport (ATT) documents from the province's chief firearms officer every time they wish to take their guns anywhere other than a shooting club or a range — to a gunsmith or a gun show, for example. 

People have been contacting Easter to complain about the new rules, saying this creates unnecessary paperwork and delays.

The new rules are to ensure people transporting guns are going directly from one place to another and not stopping along the way where someone could steal a weapon, Easter said.

"That really shouldn't take that long," Easter said "The intent here is it should be a matter of only checking in to gain the right to transport."

Authorization can be requested over the phone or by email, Easter said.  

Under previous Harper-era rules, ATT clearance for six specific purposes was included automatically with every firearms licence.

'Similar policy to all 50 states'

Another complaint Easter is hearing is that gun sellers now have to keep sales records for two decades. 

'Maybe there needs to be amendments made,' to Bill C-71, says Easter. (CBC)

"Actually, that's just going back to what was in place prior to 2005 when the national registry came in," Easter points out.

"A lot of retailers in fact do keep those records now ... and it's actually a similar policy to all 50 states in the U.S." 

Every time Canada changes its gun laws, Easter said, legislators struggle to balance concerns of both the gun community and anti-gun lobbies. 

"What the government has tried to do here is to find the balance as to not to put an oversome burden on farmers, recreational shooters and hunters," Easter said.

Government does not intend to bring back the national long-gun registry, Easter added. 

More P.E.I. News

With files from Laura Chapin