In a recent Senate hearing on Bill C-21, concerns about compensation for firearm owners and potential impacts on public safety took centre stage as provincial firearm authorities slammed the government for shortchanging Canadians.
The second panel of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs featured Teri Bryant, Alberta’s Chief Firearms Officer and Robert Freberg, Saskatchewan’s Commissioner and Chief Firearms Officer. The two speakers voiced their concerns surrounding compensation for legal firearms users and potential impacts on public safety.
One notable point of contention was the federal government’s consultation process or lack thereof. When asked about consultations between federal officers and the Saskatchewan firearms office before the bill was introduced, Freberg succinctly responded, “It was zero.”
“We’ve looked at the initial offers of compensation and they’re woefully inadequate,” said Robert Freberg. He added that Bill C-21 fails to give value to the accessories that people bought for their firearms.
Although the Liberal government introduced Bill C-21 as an attempt to crackdown on violent gun crime, critics of the legislation have called it a gun control ploy that unfairly targets law-abiding Canadians. Concerns about how the government defines “assault-style weapons” have led some to say that it further restricts hunting rifles and could impact traditional Indigenous ways of life.
A group of professors, researchers, and firearms policy experts say Bill C-21 will do little to combat violent crime and may even do more harm than good, reported National Post. This group sent a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, major leaders of federal parties, and the house public safety committee saying that the bill will “punish hundreds of thousands of Canadian hunters, farmers, trappers, collectors, and sport shooters.”
“This legislation expects and trusts law-abiding firearms owners to voluntarily turn their handguns for destruction without compensation, potentially after multiple decades of safe and legal ownership, storage, and use,” pointed out Freberg.
Freberg emphasized that, ironically, the legislation “does not trust those same owners now to engage in the commerce of purchasing and selling handguns between each other.”
The recently passed Saskatchewan Firearms Act mandates that where the federal government seeks to expropriate handguns or any other firearms and renders them of no value, the federal government must pay the fair market price prior to their destruction.
Teri Bryant weighed in on the legislative actions, emphasizing the responsibility to the public. She noted that the Alberta government has taken legislative action to protect the interests of firearms owners and public safety.
“The point of this legislation is that many of the ideas that they were putting forward could actually have negatively affected public safety,” she stated.
While not in favor of the federal government’s gun confiscation, Bryant stressed the importance of its execution not endangering the Alberta public.
“We will make sure that their actions do not pose a risk to Alberta society at large,” she said.
Committing to the interests of both the public and firearm owners, she added, “If these unfortunate measures are pushed through, we will protect the interests of the society at large in Alberta and of firearms owners in particular, with respect to compensation. We will make sure that any compensation is full, adequate, and prompt.”
The government’s approach to firearm confiscation might not only be lacking in fairness but might also have unintended consequences for public safety, according to the firearms experts.
“There hasn’t been a strong plan put together on the actual confiscation process,” said Freberg.
Freberg explains that many people have been taking their firearms to post offices and hardware stores in rural Saskatchewan.
“It’s certainly not secure to leave a bunch of firearms there,” he said.
Firearms may be stolen to commit further crimes, but generally, these are not handguns or restricted prohibited firearms. Rather, they are predominantly non-restricted or firearms that have been modified or home-built, explains Freberg.
“Legal firearm owners have an important role to play, of course, in enhancing public safety, which is why Saskatchewan is focusing a great deal of effort on public education to ensure safe storage, licensing and use of firearms,” he said.
“Banning and seizing firearms is not the solution,” he said.
He added that this fact has been overwhelmingly proven over and over in many studies that have taken similar action as the federal government is currently looking to pursue.