Gun rights groups like the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA), the National Firearms Association (NFA), and firearm owners across Canada continue to expose new problems with the “assault weapon”ban imposed by Trudeau’s Liberal government on May 1, 2020.
Readers will recall that more than 1,500 firearms and devices (as well as present and future “variants”) became reclassified as “prohibited”in Canada, through regulations that took effect immediately. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained that the change in the law was intended to ban “military grade assault weapons,”an undefined term which he said meant guns “designed for one purpose and one purpose only, to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time.”At the same time, Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, assured Canada’s hunters, farmers, and target shooters “that nothing that we are doing today or will do in the future is intended to interfere”with their legitimate and responsible activities.
Although sales, transfers, use, and transport of the newly prohibited guns and devices became generally illegal as of May 1, persons in otherwise lawful possession have until April 30, 2022 to deactivate or destroy the firearm or device, deliver it to “a police officer for destruction or other disposal,”or legally export it.
While the government has promised “fair compensation”for this government-mandated loss, the details of this program have yet to be released.
The most recent snafu arises out of a form letter that gun owners have reported receiving in the mail. These unsigned letters, sent from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to owners of firearms, contain the following: “Certain restricted firearms which were registered to you have been affected by the recent regulatory amendments. These firearms, listed below, are now classified as prohibited and the previous registration certificates are automatically nullified and are therefore no longer valid but should be retained as a historical registration record.”
Under the relevant law, s. 72 of the Firearms Act–which uses the term “revocation”–a government official seeking to revoke a firearm registration certificate must comply with certain procedural and substantive requirements. The notice of the decision must be made “in the prescribed form,”it must include “reasons for the decision disclosing the nature of the information relied on for the decision”(unless the disclosure would endanger any person), it must be accompanied by a copy of sections 74 to 81 of the Act (outlining the process for a court review and appeals). The notice “must specify a reasonable period during which the …holder of the registration certificate may deliver to a peace officer or a firearms officer or a chief firearms officer or otherwise lawfully dispose of the firearm to which the registration certificate relates,”which period is tolled until after any related court proceedings are concluded. A regulation further requires that the notice be personally delivered, sent by registered mail or courier, or “transmitted by electronic means that can produce a paper record.”
The letters do not appear to meet these statutory and regulatory criteria, which may be why the letters refer to registration certificates being “nullified”instead of “revoked.”Indeed, the CSSA speculated that the objective of the letters may be a “fishing expedition,”to smoke out information about “non-restricted”firearms now reclassified as “prohibited”and held by law-abiding gun owners, who contact the RCMP on receipt of an obscurely worded “nullification”notice. (Unlike “restricted”and “prohibited”guns,”non-restricted”firearms do not have to be registered.)
Predictably, a barrage of questions about the purpose and effect of these notifications resulted. One example was a letter to Minister Bill Blair from Member of Parliament Bob Zimmer (Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies) who asked, among other things, why the RCMP was “sending a letter to firearms owners that could be confused as a revocation letter.”
On July 31, the RCMP website was updated to include a statement titled “Important Notice.”It reads, in part:
…a letter was recently sent out to individuals/businesses to inform them that their previously registered restricted firearms are now prohibited and their registration certificates became nullified. This nullification is the result of the legislative change to the Criminal Code Regulations and not the result of any decision by the Registrar to revoke the registration certificates under the Firearms Act. Accordingly, the letter is not a Firearm Registration Certificate Revocation Notice. The Amnesty Order protects owners who held a valid registration certificate for the newly prohibited firearms on April 30th, 2020. (Emphasis added.)
Cynical gun owners in Canada may well be excused for viewing this as another shady attempt by the Liberals and government agencies to mislead the public about the “assault weapons”ban, following, as it does, the recent interpretation of “variant” by the RCMP to justify adding over 1,000 guns, not directly listed in the regulation, as “prohibited”firearms.
NFA president Sheldon Clare describes the Liberal gun ban as “the greatest threat to firearm ownership that I have seen. Americans should be very concerned about these failed Canadian experiments to take away peoples’rights being replicated in the United States.”