Nova Scotia

Hunting activist says gun reform more about U.S. than Canada

Tony Rodgers, the chair of the firearms committee for the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters, says Canada's gun laws are "working fine" and the push for change may be more related to issues in the U.S., where laws vary state to state and city to city.

Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters says laws 'working fine' as they are

The Liberals are also proposing new legislation that would include more extensive background checks for firearms licences. (Gord Ellis/CBC)

A Nova Scotia hunting activist says federal plans to tighten gun-control rules are more about the violence in the United States than improving laws in Canada.

Tony Rodgers, the chair of the firearms committee for the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters, said Canada's firearms laws are "working fine" and the push for change may be more related to issues in the U.S., where laws vary state to state and city to city.  

"In Canada, we're universal. Everybody obeys the same set of laws and everybody's concerned about the same set of laws," he told CBC's Information Morning on Monday.

Last week, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tabled Bill C-71. It includes new background-check provisions that would require the RCMP to examine the entire history of a person seeking a firearms licence. The current standard means only the previous five years are assessed for potential red flags.

The legislation would also require gun retailers to maintain adequate records for 20 years. Mandatory record-keeping had been done away with by the Harper government in 2012.

Long-gun registry

Rodgers said some of the proposed changes in C-71 "seem to be" bringing back the long-gun registry by another name. It would also be a "registry with a lot of holes in it," he said, because only sales from retailers would be recorded and not those between owners.

But he said he doesn't believe owner-to-owner sales should be tracked: "What we do in Canada is control the person that's purchasing the firearm by licensing them and knowing who they are."

It's a criminal offence to knowingly sell a firearm to anyone who is not licensed by the RCMP's firearms program.

Part of the problem, Rodgers said, is a court system that "allows people to get away with" using a gun while committing a crime. In some cases, he said, people charged with an armed robbery will plead guilty to a robbery charge, and have the gun charge dropped. He thinks those laws should be more vigorously prosecuted.

Firearms prohibitions

But Denise Smith, deputy director of the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service, said the Crown does not routinely drop weapons charges to secure another conviction. She said a person convicted of non-firearms offences can still face a weapons prohibition under sections 109 and 110 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

"If a person were convicted of robbery, they would be subject to a mandatory order under Section 109 because robbery is an offence punishable by 10 years or more and is, by definition, one in which violence is used, threatened or attempted," she told CBC News via email.

A prohibition means an offender is prohibited from possessing an array of weapons, including firearms, for 10 years or more, depending on the length of the order.

According to a report by the RCMP Commissioner of Firearms, 264 firearms licence applications in Canada were refused in 2016 due at least in part to court-ordered weapons prohibitions. Nearly 1,400 licences were also revoked due to court prohibitions and orders.

'It is simply not a federal long gun registry. Full stop. Period.'

4 years ago
Duration 7:41
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale discusses the government's new gun control bill and the concerns that some provisions may amount to a 'backdoor gun registry.' 7:41

Rodgers said he is also concerned the federal government wants to scrutinize a person's entire life in background checks. He gave a hypothetical example of a soldier who fought in Afghanistan, returned home with mental-health issues and had some problems, but has now received treatment.

"If the government says this guy had a problem and now we're going to take his firearms away from him because of an incident that happened 20 years ago, I don't think that's fair," Rodgers said. "It's not what happened in the past, it's what's happening right now and in the next five years, not the last 10."

Before authorizing a person for a Possession and Acquisition Licence, the RCMP completes an extensive background check that takes into account criminal, mental health, addiction and domestic violence records.

Once a licence has been issued, background checks then run through an ongoing process called "continuous eligibility," which includes daily searches of police and court databases to see if a licence holder has become a public safety risk.

With files from CBC News, Information Morning