Caveat lector: I am not a gun owner; I do not have a firearms licence nor a certificate allowing me to purchase a firearm. But, I know a bit about rifles and pistols and even machine guns. I grew up of a farm, rifles and shotguns were always at hand. I was a soldier for many, many years … rifles and pistols and so on were part of my stock-in-trade. I am comfortable with a gun in my hands and I am comfortable with people who use guns for work and sport.
When I was a young man we used the phrase “picking the fly-shit out of the pepper” as a (admittedly very crude) expression to describe a pointless task. I see that, according to an article in the Globe and Mail, which says that “Ottawa has officially ruled out a countrywide ban on handguns, but the Liberals will be running in the next federal election on a plan to prohibit and buy back some military-style assault weapons that are currently legal in Canada,” that is just what Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair is planning to do. He has ruled out a blanket ban on handguns, something that some city councils, some MPs and some newspapers have advocated because, as I explained before and as he seems to understand, that it would be nonsensical. Mr Blair, himself, said that ““I believe that would be potentially a very expensive proposition but just as importantly, it would not in my opinion be perhaps the most effective measure in restricting the access that criminals would have to such weapons, because we’d still have a problem with them being smuggled across the border.”” That is in addition to the fact that criminals, by definition, don’t obey laws.
What he proposes, instead, amounts to further nonsense but, as the Globe and Mail, says “Mr. Blair’s recommendation to prohibit some types of weapons stands to put the debate at the forefront of the political agenda in the coming months.” Bill Blair said that “There are some weapons that are currently available in our society that represent an unacceptable risk … [and] … They have been used tragically in a number of incidents in which a large number of people have been killed, because these weapons were designed to be efficient in the taking of lives.”” Without trying to overstate the obvious: the intended purpose of (almost) all firearms is to take life of some sort … perhaps a rodent, or a game-bird for dinner, maybe a moose or a deer to help feed a family over the winter … perhaps a rival gang member.
The first problem is, as the article points out, that “There is no legal definition for assault rifles in the Criminal Code. The most commonly cited example of a military-style assault rifle, the AR-15, is classified as restricted, meaning it is subject to a central registry and can only be fired at an approved range. Still, other semi-automatic, magazine-fed rifles firing identical rounds can be found in the non-restricted category, which can used for hunting and have no registry.” I looked at the website of a Canadian company that sells legal firearms. My guess is that most people would look at this rifle and conclude that it is a dangerous “assault rifle:”
But I suspect that many, likely most, of the same people would look at this rifle and conclude that it is just a hunting rifle that might be found in many Canadian homes:
They are both semi-automatic rifles. Both fire a 5.56 mm (NATO standard) bullet and both are sold with only small, 5 round magazines, but many people would classify one as an “assault rifle” and the other as a “hunting rifle,” based solely on appearance. As the Globe and Mail says, “Emblematic of the classification quandary is the Ruger Mini-14 … [pictuted, just above] … a semi-automatic rifle used in the École Polytechnique massacre that ticks many of the boxes associated with military-style assault rifles. But with its wooden stock, it looks more like a classic hunting rifle than a pistol-gripped, military-style rifle. It remains non-restricted.” A quick web search shows that “after-market” magazines with a 40 round capacity are available for the rather harmless looking Ruger Mini-14.
That Ruger Mini-14, with 30 round magazine fitted, looks a little less “sporting” doesn’t it?
Magazines are normal for most rifles. I learned to shoot, as a young boy, with, first, a small calibre, single shot rifle. It had no magazine, I had to manually insert each bullet into the chamber before I could fire. It looked a something like this …
… but, after I had proven myself able to handle a gun safely and use it with care and accuracy, I was allowed to use a larger calibre (able to bring down, say, a deer, or even a man) magazine fed rifle rather like this …
… it, just like the Savage MSR-15 (first picture) is sold with a five round magazine. The big differences are that the lever action hunting rifle, a tool in many rural households like the one in which I was raised, cannot be fitted with a larger, “aftermarket” magazine and the shooter must manually eject (using the lever) and (then automatically, by the same lever action) reload a new round after each shot. With a semi-automatic rifle, each round is ejected and reloaded (automatically) after the trigger is pulled. Some skilled craftsmen, like some of my personal friends, can, very often, convert some semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic machineguns with readily available tools. If some of my law-abiding friends can do that then you can be absolutely sure that some criminals can, too.
Minister Blair, the article reports, said that “the government should not simply prohibit new sales of these weapons and allow current owners to keep them under a form of grandfathering. Instead, he said the Liberals will propose to buy them back … [because] … “In fairness to those individuals [who have already lawfully acquired these weapons], if we were going to prohibit them and remove them from society, we would want to consider the best way to compensate them for the forfeiture of those weapons,” he said.“
But which weapons is he going to ban and why? is the Savage MSR 15 more dangerous than the Ruger Mini-14 because it looks scary to someone who knows little about firearms? Maybe all semi-automatic rifles should be banned and those in private hands should be confiscated … but what about those (rather few, maybe only numbering in the low tens of thousands) Canadians who live and work “on the land” and who carry a rifle as a matter of (life and death) necessity. When one might have to deal with an angry 200+ kg carnivore that can run faster than any human a semi-automatic rifle is very, very much better, in the hands of a skilled shooter (which 99% of those people are ) than a lever or bolt action rifle … sometimes a half second and a 10 or 20 round magazine matter. How will the Liberals serve the needs of those people?
Banning all and confiscating most semi-automatic rifles will create a new “market,” amongst criminals and the mentally ill for illegal rifles ~ think prohibition and the bootleggers and Al Capone and, and, and ~ and it will cost the government hundreds of millions to buy up and then dispose of at least several hundred thousand semi-automatic rifles that are legally owned in Canada. Or will the Liberals decide to “pick the fly shit out of the pepper” and classify weapons as illegal “assault rifles” or legal “hunting rifles” based on cosmetics? And what happens when another Marc Lépine (originally Gamil Rodrigue Liass Gharbi) decides that he hates some group of people and uses the dark web to buy an illegal assault rifle? Or what happens when some other “young men of colour” in Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto use already illegal handguns in their internecine urban gang wars and kill innocent children in the crossfire? The Laurentian Elites will wring their hands and demand more action.
There is, I guess, a political imperative for the Trudeau Liberals to “do something.” There’s an election coming up, after all. I suspect that those Canadians who want all guns taken away from everyone will not be placated by whatever Minister Blair does. I am absolutely certain that my gun owning friends will grumble and obey whatever law is enacted and will surrender any firearms which are declared illegal … I am equally certain that criminals will buy up and hoard “assault rifles” because they will know that a new, very profitable, niche market will emerge for them.