Sunday, February 01, 2015

Harper Government Reforms Firearm Act

© Othmar Vohringer

In October 2014 the Harper Government introduced an amendment to the existing firearm act they named “Common Sense Firearm Licensing Act”. Bill C-42 as it is called officially has passed second reading in November of 2014 and it widely believed to pass the 3rd and final reading too, despite strong opposition of the Liberals and the NDP, both of which announced that if they win the next election, would bring back gun-control-laws.

It was a long time coming, but Harper is slowly fulfilling his election promise to make life easier for law abiding firearm owners and to put the blame of gun violence where it belongs. The criminals! To this effect the government introduced laws that mandate the courts to punish violent criminals much more harshly than was previously the case, and with less chance of parole and making up excuses to evade long-term prison sentences.

Dan Albas, Conservative MP for the Okanagan-Coquihalla Constituency attended the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club meeting on January 21st to explain what Bill C-42 is all about and to get input from firearm owners that he will take to Ottawa for discussion.

Here are the essential points of this new legislation:

Mandatory firearm safety training
Under the new act it still would be a mandatory requirement for any first time firearm applicant to successfully complete a firearm safety course.

Firearms prohibition for domestic violence
The amendment in Bill C-42 would require courts to impose a mandatory weapon prohibition order when an offender is prosecuted by indictment and convicted of a violent offence. This order can be issued for life and is also applied to first time convictions. This means that a firearm holder convicted of a domestic assault or other violent crime could be forbidden to ever own a firearm again, including upon first conviction.

Grace period
The grace period would allow a firearm licence holder to retain the firearm beyond six months of the license expiry date without risking penalties and confiscation of the firearm. This grace period is designed to assist lawful firearm owners who may face challenges by the notoriously slow licence renewal process or who reside abroad during the time of their licence expiry date. However, during this grace period of six months, the firearm owner cannot legally obtain ammunition, additional firearms, or use the firearms for hunting and target shooting. Violations of these restrictions could result in the licence being revoked.

POL (Possession Only License)
The Possession Only Licence (POL) would be eliminated in favour of only one license: the PAL (Possession and Acquisition License). The approximately 600,000 POL license holders across Canada would be supplied with a PAL license after their POL license expires.

Authorization to Transport (ATT)
Under current law owners of prohibited firearms, i.e. handguns, must fill out an application form every time they take their weapon to a gunsmith or to a shooting range. Under the new law such time consuming separate applications would fall away for routine and lawful activities, such as traveling to shooting ranges, going to an individual’s home following a CFO (Chief Firearm Officer) approved transfer of ownership, taking the firearm to a gunsmith, and so on.

One very important aspect of Bill C-42 will see to it that RCMP and CFO have to provide full disclosure and clear reasons for their decisions and administrating regulations in a fair manner across all jurisdictions. As is widely practised now, those decisions are based on the individual officer’s discretion or interpretation of the law.

To read the full text of the proposed law visit Open Parliament Website. I am happy with this new law and hope that after 2015 we still will have a Conservative government and see more improvements of legal firearm ownership. The other option of having a Liberal or NDP government would result in legal firearm owners being once again used as scapegoats for the lack of addressing the real problems that create the issues of firearm related violent crimes.

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