London

'Massive surge' in local handgun sales as Canada looks to toughen gun laws, shop owners say

Gun owners and firearm shops in the London region say they’ve seen a rise in handgun sales as Canada moves to strengthen gun control laws. 

New legislation that would freeze the sale, importing and trade of handguns across the country

The federal government is looking to pass tougher gun laws. (Robert Short/CBC)

Gun owners and firearm shops in the London region said they've seen a rise in handgun sales as Canada moves to strengthen gun control laws. 

The federal government tabled Bill C-21 on Monday, a legislation that would freeze the sale, importing and trading of handguns across Canada in the fall, but would not further restrict handguns already owned legally.

"It's just created a massive surge in purchasing," said Bill Malcolm, a member at Oxford Sportmens Club in Verchoyle, Ont. 

"I've never seen it like this before," he said. When the government talks about banning guns to the legal firearms community, people go out and buy firearms and ammunition, he said. 

Handgun sales have "definitely increased" since the announcement, said Wayne Goble, owner of Goble's Firearms on Sovereign Road in London, who opened the shop in 1978. 

"People are upset," he said. Some customers feel the legislation is "throwing money away" by controlling "law abiding citizens on firearms" instead of dealing with crime and criminals directly, he said.

Registered handguns in Canada grew by 71 per cent between 2010 and 2020, totalling an estimated 1.1 million, according to the Canadian government. Handguns were also "the most serious weapon present" in 59 per cent of firearm-related violence crimes in Canada between 2009 and 2020. 

However, gun owners say the ban on handguns targets legal owners, not those who commit crimes. 

Worries surface

Others have responded to Bill C-21 by selling their firearms, Goble said. 

"People are worried about their investments," he said. Some who have firearm collections worry if they don't sell now, they may lose their equity, he said. "All of a sudden you could be sitting here with, you know, $10,000 worth of firearms and there's no equity." 

Douglas Lightheart, president of the East Elgin Sportsmens Association in Alymer, said some gun owners feel their livelihoods, hobby or sport are going to be threatened and limited.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people aren't even aware of what we have to go through to get a handgun license," he said. "You can't just go into a store and walk out that day with a handgun. There's specific licensing involved. There's a waiting period."

A license is needed to buy and own a handgun legally in Canada, which requires safety training and a background check.

"People that have been thinking about buying something are going to buy now because they don't think they'll have an opportunity down the road," Lightheart said.

London gun seller Bullseye North reported a "high volume of orders" on their website. Tillsonburg Gun Shop had multiple handguns and pistols out of stock on their website as of Wednesday at noon. CBC News reached out to both shops, but they did not comment. 

Strongest measures in Canadian history

The federal government is "proposing some of the strongest measures in Canadian history to keep guns out of our communities and build a safer future for everyone," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.

His announcement came on the heels of the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed. 

Bill C-21 includes: 

  • A national freeze on buying, selling, importing and transferring handguns

  • Removing firearms licenses from people criminal harassment, domestic violence or stalking

  • Increasing criminal penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking, strengthening border security and giving more tools for law enforcement investigating firearm crimes

  • A "red flag law" that would require those considered a danger to themselves or others to surrender their firearms to law enforcement 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Both is an reporter at CBC London and Master of Media in Journalism and Communication student at Western University. You can email her at michelle.both@cbc.ca.

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