Proposed firearm law changes won't do much to cut down on crime, say Sask. gun owners

The proposed legislation demands police examine a person's entire life history to search for red flags rather than the current five years.

Bill C-71 would beef up background checks, record-keeping

Darryl Schemenauer, the owner of TnT Gunworks in Regina, is most concerned about the power given to the RCMP in the bill to classify firearms. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)

Some gun owners and vendors in Saskatchewan feel the federal Liberals' proposed gun law changes won't do very much to cut down on crime in the province.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tabled Bill C-71 Tuesday in Ottawa.

The proposed legislation demands police examine a person's entire life history to search for red flags rather than the current five years; allows the RCMP to classify firearms as restricted and prohibited; and would require gun owners to obtain a separate authorization to transport guns anywhere other than a shooting club or range.

Firearm retailers would also be required to maintain record of sales and inventories for a 20-year period. 

I would be willing to bet a large sum of money that these regulations won't do anything to reduce violent crime.- Dallas  Ostrom , gun owner

In November, the Liberals announced $327 million over five years, and $100 million every year after that, toward gun and gang crime reduction.

Provincial Minister of Justice Don Morgan said the bill needs to be more thoroughly reviewed by the department.

"We're certainly supportive of anything that keeps guns out of the hands of criminals or has a better way of checking. What we are worried about, however, is anything that has a backdoor gun registry, so we're going to want to look carefully at what the registration requirements are to see if it's something that would be a problem for us," he said.

"The concern for us would be a registry. We went through a multi-billion-dollar problematic registry that was there before."

Won't help rural crime, says farmer

Dallas Ostrom owns several firearms, both restricted and unrestricted, that he keeps at his home in Rosetown, Sask. He said they're for "sporting, hunting, predators out at the farm."

"I don't think there's a gun owner out there who isn't concerned with reducing violent crime," he said.

Dallas Ostrom is a farmer and concrete worker who has lived near Rosetown, Sask., most of his life. (Omayra Issa/Radio-Canada)

But, he said, the $327 million could be better spent on other initiatives than increased regulation. Things, he said, like "putting more boots on the ground to fight real crime like drugs in the city and rural crime in the country. I'm sure you could hire a lot of police for $327 million."

The proposed changes won't affect Ostrom, but he opposes them just the same.

"I would be willing to bet a large sum of money that these regulations won't do anything to reduce violent crime," he said.

Could affect vendor's bottom line

At TnT Gunworks in Regina, both staff and customers echo Ostrom's sentiments.

Owner and operator Darryl Schemenauer is most concerned about the power given to the RCMP in the bill to classify firearms.

"That could be a domino effect in a way where they could pick certain guns they think are restricted. They could put a class on that makes it harder for people to buy sporting and hunting guns," he said, which would hurt his bottom line.

"We just don't know which guns they're going to go after."

Shemenauer suggests Canada's National Firearms Association, a group that describes itself as "Canada's leader in the quest for fair and practical firearm and property rights legislation," as a body that may be better-suited to classifying firearms than the RCMP.

TnT Gunworks employees already record information on gun sales and licensing. 

"We never stopped doing that," said Shemenauer, though the condition was scrapped by the Harper government in 2012.

'Good, common-sense laws'

One of Shemenauer's customers, at least, disagrees on one point. He believes the life-history background check is a good idea.

"If someone has a violent history or is convicted of stealing, I don't think they should be allowed to own firearms or anything like that," said Jared Sharp, who obtained his firearms licence two years ago.

Sharp uses his licence to go clay shooting or to the range, and calls Canada's current regulations "good, common-sense laws."

But, he said, "I don't think [the proposed changes] would improve public safety, because the criminals aren't going to be handing over guns anyway."

Jared Sharp obtained his firearms licence two years ago. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)