Some Alberta gun enthusiasts say ban on 'assault-style' firearms won't make Canada safer

Some gun enthusiasts in Alberta say the Trudeau government’s immediate ban on 1,500 makes and models of military grade, “assault-style” weapons will do nothing to eliminate future mass shootings, reduce gun crime or make Canada safer.

'It is a sad day for democracy,' gun club member says

In this Aug. 15, 2012, file photo, three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif. AR-15 rifles are on the list of banned weapons announced by the federal government Friday. (Rich Pedronelli/The Associated Press)

Some gun enthusiasts in Alberta say the federal government's immediate ban on 1,500 makes and models of military grade "assault-style" weapons will do nothing to eliminate future mass shootings, reduce gun crime or make Canada safer.

"It is a sad day for democracy," said Joe Breslawski, past president of the non-profit Alberta Provincial Rifle Association. 

Licensed gun owners will not be allowed to use, sell, import or even transport the prohibited weapons.

"As of today, the market for assault weapons is closed," federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Friday after the ban was announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Enough is enough. Banning these firearms will save lives."

Gun enthusiasts in Alberta, however, view the Liberal ban as a "knee-jerk reaction" to one of Canada's deadliest mass killings. Two weeks ago, a single gunman, posing as an RCMP officer, attacked a community in rural Nova Scotia. Twenty-two people died.

Breslawski, like many gun owners, said the ban targets licensed gun owners rather than criminals who often get their guns illegally from the United States. He said that all but one gun carried by the Nova Scotia suspect had been illegally smuggled into Canada.

"This individual obviously was not stable, and when lawless people are lawless, it doesn't matter what kind of laws we put in place," Breslawski said, adding that much of the gun violence in Canada involves gangs, drugs and handguns in Toronto, where Blair was once police chief. 

Herb Betschart of the Swiss Rifle Club in Calgary said he believes the Trudeau Liberals have used the Nova Scotia tragedy to impose a ban to score "Brownie points" with voters.

"He knows there is an election coming up, and he is appealing to a certain voter demographic," Betschart said.

Both Betschart and Breslawski said the majority of long-gun owners are members of target shooting clubs and shoot competitively at ranges. Betschart said the ban will not only affect a major industry in Canada but also the clubs.

Alberta considering own chief firearms officer

On Friday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer issued a joint statement that said the ban will do little to target criminals. 

Instead, the federal government is spending "vast sums of money to criminalize law-abiding citizens," Kenney said, referring to a buyback program Trudeau promised for all legally purchased rifles that falls under the new ban. "That money would be far better used to pursue the smugglers and drug gangs that plague our society."

Schweitzer said "violent criminals who use guns are often released with surprisingly soft sentences," and he called on the federal government to bring back mandatory sentences for "criminals who flagrantly endanger Canadians with their use of illegal guns."

Kenney said his government, in response to the federal ban, is "actively considering appointing its own provincial chief firearms officer to replace the one appointed by Ottawa." 

Ban long overdue

Jan Reimer, executive director of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, said the ban is long overdue, as it comes more than 30 years after the mass shooting at École Polytechnique in Montreal. 

Reimer said those people who say the ban will do nothing to eliminate mass shootings and increase public safety "should talk to the survivors of the Montreal massacre. These are assault rifles. They are for rapidly killing people. 

"The two biggest mass murderers in [Canadian] history really were conducted with assault weapons. So [the ban] is not a timely move; it's an about-time move."

Among the banned weapons are the M16, M4, AR-10 and AR-15 rifles that were used in mass shootings at Sandy Hook, New Zealand, Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla. There are an estimated 83,572 of them in Canada.

Also on the banned list is the Ruger Mini-14, a common gun in Canada. It  was used in the École Polytechnique shooting. There are an estimated 16,859 of them in Canada.

The M14 rifle, used in the 2014 Moncton, N.B., murder of three RCMP officers and wounding of two others, is also expected to be banned. There are an estimated 5,229 of those in Canada.

The federal government has moved to ban the sale and import of several types of semi-automatic firearms in Canada. (CBC News)