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This B.C. gun shop is selling out of pistols amid upcoming federal freeze

Wanstalls owner critical of government’s new gun control measures
Craig Jones, co-owner of Wanstalls, holds an AR15 variant, when they were legal to sell, with two Glock 22’s in the foreground. (THE NEWS/files)

The response to new gun laws in Canada has been swift – in just two days, customers had already bought almost all the handguns at Wanstalls Hunting and Shooting in Maple Ridge.

Owner Craig Jones remarked that if there hasn’t been a loud reaction from the industry – shops like his, it’s because they are busy selling out their stock. The rush on firearms comes after new restrictions that are the most dramatic changes yet in the industry, he said. They will essentially place a cap on the number of handguns in Canada.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a coming national freeze on importing, buying or selling handguns, as his government presented new gun control legislation, Bill C-21, in the House of Commons.

The new measures will also see the government begin buying back thousands of assault-style weapons. The government banned 1,500 models and variants of these guns in 2020.

“One Canadian killed by gun violence is one too many. I’ve seen all too well the tragic cost that gun violence has in our communities across the country,” said Trudeau. “Today, we’re proposing some of the strongest measures in Canadian history to keep guns out of our communities and build a safer future for everyone.”

READ ALSO: National handgun freeze key feature of federal Liberals’ new firearm-control bill

The law will also require long gun magazines to be permanently altered so they can hold no more than five rounds, and large-capacity magazine sales or transfers will be banned.

They also allow for gun owners to have gun licenced revoked if they are involved in crimes such as domestic violence, harassment or stalking.

READ ALSO: Measures in new bill to keep guns from abusers, stalkers, welcomed by advocates

At the same time, the government pledged to fight gun smuggling and illegal sales through law enforcement and border security measures.

“It’s probably going to mean a 25 per cent reduction in our business, it’s definitely going to hurt,” said Jones of the new measures. “And it’s for no reason.”

He said consumers, retailers and manufacturers of firearms in Canada were not part of the discussion with government, so many in his industry were expecting they would see strict regulation.

“I would have asked them to allocate their resources toward tightening up border restrictions, some anti-gang initiatives, or maybe even funding an RCMP anti (gun) trafficking section,” said Jones. “We have the longest border in the world, with the most armed populace in the world.”

He said the flow of illegal guns from the U.S. has been unchecked, and the new laws target law-abiding gun owners.

Jones joins a chorus in the shooting sports who say background checks, storage regulations, mandatory education and other factors have kept Canada from having the same problems with gun violence as seen in the U.S. Still, government is currying favour with voters who aren’t educated about firearms.

He doesn’t see buying back legally sold assault-style weapons as promoting safety, or as a wise investment.

“We don’t have assault rifles in Canada. Those have been prohibited for decades,” he said, explaining that an assault rifle is typically defined as a weapon that fires fully automatic, has a large-capacity magazine and fires an intermediate cartridge.

He said AR-15s that have been legally sold in Canada are simply semi-automatic rifles that hold five rounds.

“The AR-15 is no deadlier than any other rifle,” he said. “There’s nothing that fits the definition of assault rifle that’s been sold in Canada for 40-50 years.”

Jones said the resources for buying back assault rifles could be better spent buying MRIs for hospitals.

“Do something that might actually save some lives, because these measures don’t.”

READ ALSO: Charest pledges review of assault-style firearm ban after saying no laws would change

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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