Gun owners may face less red tape, new responsibilities under proposed law

The federal government unveiled plans today for new legislation covering ownership of firearms that aims to cut red tape, but also show Canada is taking gun safety seriously.

Canadian government hopes to unveil legislation in the fall to ease regulations for gun owners

The federal government says proposed changes to Canada's gun laws are about cutting red tape, but critics say it's more about trying to woo the gun lobby 2:32

The Canadian government plans to introduce proposed legislation that would make life easier for many Canadian gun owners.

As CBC News first reported, the government is planning new legislation aimed at cutting red tape. However, the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act also will include measures intended to show the government takes gun safety seriously.

Here are the proposed new gun rules:

  • Authorization required to transport weapons.
  • Mandatory safety courses for first-time gun owners.
  • Restrictions on owners convicted of domestic assault.
  • Swiss Arm Classic Green allowed.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney made the announcement today, at a shooting range in North Bay, Ont.

The government plans to table the proposed legislation in the fall.

Under the proposed law, firearms regulations across the country will be streamlined and standardized.

Currently, gun owners in Ontario, Quebec and P.E.I. have to apply to each province's chief firearms officer when they want to transport a restricted or prohibited weapon. Under the new rules, gun owners in all provinces would get permission to transport weapons as a condition of their licence. 

The government also plans to allow a grace period for gun owners with expired permits.

Revamp would help 'oppressed' owners

They would not be allowed to buy new guns or ammunition, but wouldn't be at risk of jail time because of the expired permits. The length of the grace period is still being determined.

When your driver's licence expires, you don't become an instant criminal and they don't come and take your car.- Tony Bernardo, executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association

"We're pleased that this is another incremental step forward in getting the laws to be more fair for Canadians," said Tony Bernardo, executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, which boasts 22,000 members.

He welcomed the new rules, particularly one that gives owners a bit more leeway to renew expired firearms licences.

"When your driver's licence expires, you don't become an instant criminal and they don't come and take your car," he said. 

While Bernardo appreciates the relaxed rules for transporting firearms and the grace period for owners to renew their licences, he said the government still has a long way to go towards making owners feel less "oppressed" by what he called "draconian" gun control measures.

"[The act] fixes one issue with licences in a small way, and it fixes one issue with transport permits in a small way, but there's still other problems," Bernardo said. "For example, you can take your firearms to a shooting range anywhere in the Province of Ontario, but if you want to take it literally next door to go to a gunsmith, you need a separate permit. That's just plain stupid."

The new rules would give the federal government more say in decisions previously made by each province's chief firearms officer.

Swiss Arm rifle rules may change

The government also wants to make firearms safety courses mandatory for first-time gun owners. 

Gun owners convicted of domestic assault-related crimes would also be at greater risk of losing their guns, as judges would be given more discretion to remove guns in the case of certain offences.

The public safety minister is also striking another blow in his battle with police over the Swiss Arms family of rifles. 

The RCMP previously reclassified the Swiss Arm Classic Green rifle as "prohibited," which essentially banned it. In March, the government said it was troubled by the decision, and gave gun owners permission to keep the weapons, via a two-year amnesty.

Under the new plan, gun owners would also be allowed to use the weapons, in essence restoring them to their previous status.

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