New Firearms Regulations Safety Neutral

On April 30, 2020, the Canadian government imposed new firearms measures through the Governor-in-Council, which is essentially a regulatory amendment that, among other things, added new makes and models of rifles to the prohibited firearms list.

These new regulations do not appear to have any impact – positive or negative – to firearm safety in Canada. The country already has strict firearm safety measures requiring hours in in-class instruction, a pass/fail confirmation of safety training, and licencing regime, in order to legally possess or own firearms.

For those who exist outside of the legal firearm ownership framework (i.e. criminals), the already non-existent firearm safety aspect of their firearms use is also not impacted. Since criminals do not take safety courses, or acquire licences by and large, their continued unmonitored access and use of firearms still represents a grave public safety danger that is unmitigated by these new legal measures.

If public safety is the goal, as it always should be with respect to regulating potentially dangerous tools, machinery, and equipment, then as a provider of firearms safety courses we would certainly hope for measures that would be more impactful.

For example, introducing youths to basic firearm safety would be a good starting point. Currently, youths acquire exposure to firearms through mass media, images of action heroes and musical entertainers brandishing and using firearms for entertainment purposes produces a skewed perception of the role and risk of firearms. This glamorization of firearms in pop culture has been noted by organizations such as C-CAVE (Canadians Concerned About Violence in Entertainment), which has called for greater education on the use and misuse of firearms.

In the US, the much maligned National Rifle Association has progressive firearms safety training that is both age appropriate and in line with the greater progressive goal of harm reduction. At the earliest ages, school children are taught to “stop, don’t touch, and tell and adult” on discovering any unattended firearm, instilling a sense of the inherent risk and the responsibility to seek guidance.

The Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC), which is mandatory for all persons seeking a possession and acquisition type firearm licence, is currently only taken once in a lifetime. Refresher training would provide another opportunity for law-abiding, trusted firearms owners to reinforce existing sound safety practices, and perhaps revitalize their safety knowledge on firearms they did not originally contemplate owning when they originally took their course.

We feel these positive measures would be more impactful to public safety in terms of firearms safety, than any regulatory measure announced recently.

After all, the owners of firearms recently banned were already presumably safe users of these firearms last week, and they will largely continue to be safe users of firearms still available to the licenced public. Owners of grandfathered prohibited firearms, which first came into being in 1977, continued to be safe firearms owners to the present day. The numbers and models of firearms banned or permitted has little impact as vetted, licenced owners are overwhelmingly trusted and safe with any and all of them anyway.