Ottawa launches first phase of firearms buyback scheme

In May 2020, the federal government passed an Order-in-Council banning 1,500 ‘assault-style’ firearms and distinguishing components of newly prohibited firearms. Owners have until October 2023 to comply with the law.

Ottawa launches first phase of firearms buyback scheme
YouTube/ YourAlberta
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The federal government has officially resumed its efforts to target law-abiding firearms owners as it figures out how to compensate retailers that stock prohibited firearms.

"Over the past few months, we have been working closely with partners and industry leaders to prepare for the rollout of the buyback program," said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, signalling another attempt by Ottawa to further its punitive scheme against law-abiding firearms owners.

"From the outset, it has been crystal clear that the federal government's initiatives on firearms have had nothing to do with public safety," claimed Alberta's Chief Firearms Officer (CFO), Dr. Teri Bryant.

Alberta has 127 approved shooting ranges and more than 650 firearms-related businesses. "A thriving business sector is a vital part of the firearms community and has, for decades, provided thousands of well-paying jobs across the country that have enabled skilled workers to provide for their families while supporting activities they love," she said. 

"Federal measures have created threat after misguided threat to the livelihoods of these hard-working business people and their employees."

In May 2020, the federal government passed an Order-in-Council banning 1,500 ‘assault-style’ firearms and distinguishing components of newly prohibited firearms. Owners have until October 2023 to comply with the law.

"Assault-style firearms were designed for a battlefield, and they have no place in our communities, places of worship, schools or playgrounds," said Mendicino on April 26. "They serve no legitimate purpose other than killing the greatest number of people as quickly as possible. That's why we banned them."

According to Bryant, the subsequent freeze on handgun transfers and proposals to ban almost all modern and many traditionally styled hunting and sporting firearms "deprived them of their most saleable product."

Jordan Vandenhoff, former National Firearms Association (NFA) communications director, told Rebel News in January that Ottawa has "yet to define 'assault-style' weapons." The NFA also condemned them for demonizing law-abiding firearms owners and targeting their private property without addressing the source of firearm-related violent crime.

Between 2015 and 2018, most firearm-related homicides (91%) involved illegally held firearms from the U.S. According to the Fraser Institute, police report that between 70% and 90% of guns used in violent crimes in Canada are smuggled from the south of the border.

Fully-automatic firearms have been banned since 1977 and account for less than 2% of homicides during the same period.

Now with the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA), Vandenhoff told Rebel News they do not support the confiscation of legal firearms and refuse to help them implement the program in any way. "We work on behalf of firearms owners to challenge the current government on bad gun laws. We promote the safe and legal use of firearms in Canada," he said.

"The announcement was pointless," continued Vandenhoff, adding, "They still have no plan in place and do not have a budget." 

"We cannot see them completing this first stage before their deadline of October 30, when the amnesty protecting legal owners ends."

On Wednesday, Bryant condemned the lack of detailed documentation and financing behind the buyback scheme. "We don't even know if they will consider the financing and storage costs that dealers have paid to keep stock they cannot sell," she said.

The Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA) estimated that retailers have almost $1 billion in inventory that can't be sold or returned to suppliers due to the Order-In-Council. Albertans own the second-highest number of firearms classified as restricted or prohibited by Ottawa. 

Still, Mendocino lauded his government's "commitment" to "fairly compensate" law-abiding firearms owners with prohibited firearms.

According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's 2020 estimate, the cost of the buyback program would be between $47 million and $756 million. In February 2021, then-Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said compensation costs would be between $300 million and $400 million. 

The PBO assessment excludes planning and program administration costs, consultation fees, firearm collection and evaluation, storage and destruction of collected firearms, and business losses due to prohibited inventory. 

"In an earlier article, I estimated the cost of collecting the prohibited firearms could total between $1.6 billion and $5 billion. This range estimate rises to between $2.6 billion and $6.7 billion after you include compensation costs to owners," said Gary Mauser, criminologist and emeritus professor at the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University.

"Whatever the final cost, the buyback will likely dwarf the $2.7 billion spent on the long-gun registry, which was effectively scrapped in 2012," he said.

Public Safety Canada claims they will confiscate approximately 150,000 firearms as part of the buyback program, while the CSAAA estimates 518,000 firearms. 

"These entrepreneurs establish their businesses to safely provide the firearms community with the equipment it needs to continue the long, honourable tradition of firearms ownership," said Alberta's CFO, adding that taxpayers should not have to foot the "massive expense" nor be forced to turn over their stocks to the federal government.

"We call on the federal government to reverse its punitive measures against the firearms community and allow businesses to sell their inventory to carefully-vetted Canadians for the purposes they were made for — not to the federal government for needless destruction," she said.

On average, 30,000 Albertans complete mandatory firearms safety course training annually as a first step to obtaining their firearms licence. In 2021, that number jumped to 38,000, indicating a significant upward trend in legal gun ownership in the province.

A reporter asked Bryant how Alberta would respond to the buyback scheme. She said, "Until we know what they plan to do, it's hard for us to respond."

"We do have the Alberta Firearms Act and a couple of regulations in place that [we] will [preface our response]…to federal actions to ensure whatever program [they]…implement does not pose threats to public safety and…[protects] property rights.

On Monday, the province mandated provincial licensing for individuals and organizations employed to confiscate firearms, ending uncertainty concerning the Alberta Firearms Act.

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said Ottawa is considering using front-line police officers and untrained personnel to implement the buyback scheme. "Public Safety Canada is a large and inefficient bureaucracy. It does not have the resources or the [money] to fulfill its plans," he said. 

"Their decision to move forward with the confiscation program will jeopardize provincial requirements for the safe handling, transportation and storage of firearms. We will not allow that to happen."

The regulation does not affect normal police activity, such as [confiscating] a firearm as part of an investigation. There are 341,988 licence holders in Alberta, according to provincial data.

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