Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act

An Act to amend the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code and to make a related amendment and a consequential amendment to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Steven Blaney  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Firearms Act to simplify and clarify the firearms licensing regime for individuals, to limit the discretionary authority of chief firearms officers and to provide for the sharing of information on commercial importations of firearms.

It also amends the Criminal Code to strengthen the provisions relating to orders prohibiting the possession of weapons, including firearms, when a person is sentenced for an offence involving domestic violence. Lastly, it defines “non-restricted firearm” and gives the Governor in Council authority to prescribe a firearm to be non-restricted and expanded authority to prescribe a firearm to be restricted.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

April 20, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
April 1, 2015 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code and to make a related amendment and a consequential amendment to other Acts, not more than two further sitting days shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the second day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two points. I am a former municipal police board member, and I have done a lot of international policing work.

It is very rare to come across police who believe that gun regulations are red tape. Police are very supportive of reasonable regulations. They do not want extra forms. They do not want extra time wasted. However, the police are quite often in favour of reasonable regulations.

I very much look forward to having the time in committee to hear from law enforcement officials on the question of transportation of weapons. However, I have to say, as I did earlier, that after my experience with Bill C-44, I have kind of lost my faith that we are going to have adequate time in committee.

I would ask the minister again, but I know his answer will be that it has nothing to do with him, his parliamentary secretary, or the government majority on the committee. These restrictions on time and on the number of witnesses just come out of the air.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, since being elected, I have noticed, and so have all Canadians, that the Conservative government does not govern for Canadians but for its electoral base. Today, with Bill C-42, we see that it is working for the gun lobby.

We know that this government did not consult organizations reponsible for applying the law, such as the National Firearms Association in Quebec, beforehand about the repercussions of the proposed changes on public safety.

Does my colleague not think that Bill C-42 runs counter to the concept of public safety and security?

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly my point. Public safety has to be our first concern in any of the changes we are making to gun licensing and gun regulations.

However, I would also like to remind the House that, when the gun registry was being eliminated, the Conservatives were saying that was all we needed to do. Now, here we are with another bill that would loosen licensing and regulation, and sometime later this week, we are going to have another private member's bill that says we have to do something else. We are on a very slippery slope, I would say, but it seems more like an express train to keep making more and more changes at the behest of the gun lobby, forgetting the importance of keeping public safety at the centre of what we do.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
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Lévis—Bellechasse Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for his speech. I would like to say that his family, like many Canadian families, has used firearms safely.

My question is very simple. The former leader of the NDP, Jack Layton, proposed one of the measures in the bill, and that is combining the possession only licence and the possession and acquisition licence into one licence.

Today, why have the NDP unexpectedly flip-flopped on what seems to be their party's policy? Why oppose this specific measure when it was proposed by the NDP? Is it because of ideology or partisanship? I invite the member to consider the value of the measure and judge it on its merits.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's reference to my family background, for once accepting that some people on this side actually have families with similar experience to those on the Conservative side.

With respect to why we are changing our position on the bill, what I would have to say is that the proof is in the packaging. Our leader may have had an idea or a suggestion in the past, but it was not this package that the minister is bringing forward.

I have said to him, very clearly, that there are a couple of things we like in the bill, but there are some things we are concerned about. If they are going to merge those licences, then we have to have the assurance that there are proper checks for criminal activity, for mental health incidents, for domestic violence in the home.

It is not just a question of picking out one idea and saying, “Why don't you support this one idea?” It is the whole package of measures in the bill that makes it impossible for us to support it.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think it is worthy to note that the bill would, in fact, if passed, allow for a more open-ended transportation of firearms. In Winnipeg, with a population of 1.25 million people, thousands of vehicles are stolen every year. One year, in excess of 13,000 vehicles were stolen. I suspect that there would be a great deal of concern in that regard. We know, quite often, that it is part of a gang initiation, to go out and steal a vehicle.

It seems to me that the government is not dealing with the issue of possession of illegal guns.

I wonder if the member might want to provide some comment, with respect to that particular issue.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, I am concerned that there was not a broader range of people consulted about the impacts of the bill—in particular, in-depth consultations with the law enforcement community—on the very questions he raising.

However, there are also many groups working in Montreal and Toronto, in particular, which are trying to reduce gun violence on the streets.

I am very disappointed that the minister, clearly, has not talked to these people about the bill, because the situation of having most guns stolen is going to become much worse if we loosen the regulations on transportation of weapons. There is no doubt about that.

Again, I look forward to hearing what the minister has to say in committee and hearing from witnesses who represent those other parts of Canadian society that are also concerned about the presence of guns.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on Bill C-42, an act to amend the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code and to make a related amendment and a consequential amendment to other acts. As it states in the bill, the short title is the common sense firearms licensing act. When the government calls something common sense, as we well know, it is time for all of us to look at the fine print, and that is what Liberals are going to do.

I am pleased to lay out today the position of the Liberal Party on this bill moving to committee. First and foremost, as we know and as I said in a question earlier, the bill is coming forward disguised as a law and order bill, but really it is designed to try to re-ignite support among those in the pro-gun community for the Conservative base and the Conservative Party. As such, as we have already heard, government MPs will try to allege that the Liberal Party would bring back the gun registry, which we heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture earlier. For any member from the Conservative camp to say that would be an absolute lie.

The leader of the Liberal Party previously, and again today, made it absolutely clear, to quote him, that we “will not bring back the long-gun registry”. It was stated in the past and it was stated today at a scrum with the media following the caucus meeting. Let me repeat that, as there seems to be a lot of yelling opposite by government members. They might not like to hear it, but the fact of the matter is that the leader of the Liberal Party has committed that the Liberal Party will not bring back a gun registry.

To play the gun registry card in Conservative propaganda and in fundraising on the part of the Conservatives would be, as I said earlier, an absolute abrogation of the truth. Indeed, it would be a lie. Anybody who stands in the House and says that the Liberal Party is going to bring back the gun registry is lying. Members should get that straight.

Let me turn to Bill C-42 as proposed. Simply put, there are good points that would be helpful to those who use guns in this country, and there are troublesome policy and legislative amendments, which would put public safety in Canada at risk and definitely, I believe, would make Canadian streets less safe as a result of some of the proposals in Bill C-42. Indeed, it would put lives at risk and, I would submit, police officers' lives especially. Therefore, the Liberal Party is asking the minister and the government that Bill C-42 be split.

We call on the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to split Bill C-42. We can support the following measures.

We can support creating a six-month grace period at the end of the five-year licence period, to stop people from immediately becoming criminalized for paperwork delays around licence renewal, which is in clause 14.

We can support streamlining the licensing system by eliminating the possession-only licence and converting all existing POLs to possession and acquisition licences, or PALs, which is in clause 11.

We can support making classroom participation in firearm safety training mandatory for first-time licence applicants, which is in clause 4.

We can support amending the Criminal Code to strengthen the provisions related to orders prohibiting the possession of firearms where a person is convicted of an offence involving domestic violence, which is in clause 30.

We can support authorizing firearms import information-sharing when restricted and prohibited firearms are imported into Canada by businesses. I do not have the list of where that clause is, but we can support that because it makes sense. The Canada Border Service Agency, the RCMP, and police forces of other jurisdictions should have that information.

To sum up, we therefore call on the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to split Bill C-42. We can support several elements, such as the provisions that streamline licence paperwork, that tighten safety requirements, that make it harder for people convicted of domestic offences to obtain a gun, the firearm information-sharing, and extending the grace period to six months. The bill should be split to assist lawful gun activity by activists, sport shooters, farmers, and hunters immediately. If the minister is willing to split the bill, we should be able to accomplish passage in this House of that segment. I think that even the New Democrats would support some of those aspects. We should be able to accomplish some of those aspects and get the bill through by Christmas, if that is really the desire of the government.

However, as we will find out, the government is really not interested in helping law-abiding gun owners. It is really interested in creating a fight to leave the impression that we on this side of the House do not like those law-abiding gun owners. That is the impression it wants to leave. Therefore, it has put in place a bill that has some good aspects in it for the law-abiding gun community but has a poison pill that I submit would damage public safety in this country.

Let me turn to those other aspects of the bill that we cannot support, because it does put public safety in this country at risk.

First, the bill would eliminate the need for owners of prohibited and restricted firearms to have a transportation licence to carry these guns in their vehicle. It eliminates that need for every time they are transported. This means they could freely transport handguns or automatic weapons anywhere within their province. It says in the backgrounder that they can travel with restricted and prohibited firearms to shooting ranges, practices, and competitions; when returning to an individual's home following a chief firearms officer's approval of transfer of ownership; going to a gunsmith, a gun show, or a Canadian port of exit; and going to a peace officer or CFO for verification, registration, or disposal.

There is such a mix of things that, when we give people a broad transport licence, it is an accident waiting to happen. Of course the guns would be locked. They would not be loaded. These are people who do not want to break the law. However, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture said earlier, criminals do not abide by the law and would break into those vehicles. They would take those weapons and use them for wrong purposes. With this aspect of trying to simplify the system, the minister is making the streets more dangerous. Therefore, we cannot support that part of the bill.

Second, Bill C-42 would take the power to classify firearms out of the hands of police, who are the experts at keeping Canadians safe, and put it into the hands of politicians like the current minister. It might even be the member for Yorkton—Melville or someone else over there at some point in time. However, the bill would take the power to classify firearms out of the hands of the police and put it into the hands of politicians. I will speak to that a little more in a moment.

Third, the bill would take the authority away from provincial chief firearms officers and imposes the federal minister's will upon those CFOs in the provinces by regulation. This is a point we have to strongly oppose.

I will explain those points in a little more detail.

The bill would enable the minister to assume the authority to designate firearms, which could result in currently designated prohibitive and restricted firearms receiving a non-restricted categorization. Effectively, an automatic handgun, or worse, could receive a designation the equivalent to a shotgun or a hunting rifle.

I would challenge the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to speak to this point. If Bill C-42 passes in its present form, the Conservative Minister of Public Safety will be empowered to designate any prohibited or restricted firearm to that of a non-restricted firearm.

This is the conclusion of the Library of Parliament. I will quote its interpretation of Bill C-42, which states, “Bill C-42 would give the Governor-in-Council the power to carve out exceptions by way of regulations for firearms that would otherwise fall within the Criminal Code definitions of restricted or prohibited firearms. This power would allow the minister to render firearms currently classified as prohibited or restricted firearms non-restricted firearms, and to render firearms that are currently classified as prohibited firearms, restricted firearms”.

Quite literally, we would have a firearms registration system in Canada which would be open to lobbying pressure, political favouritism and, in short, a corrupted system of firearms classification.

The legislation us would allow a politician, through the Minister of Public Safety, to override the recommendations of experts within our law enforcement community who have been empowered to determine which firearms should be restricted or prohibited from easy and ready access, as are rifles and shotguns, which are the firearms of choice for farmers, sport shooters and hunters in Canada.

What the minister wants to politicize is unique.

From a preliminary examination of other jurisdictions, which included the Untied States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany, the Library of Parliament found the following, “A review of firearms legislation in several selected countries has not revealed any jurisdiction in which a cabinet, a government department or even the police have the authority to override the firearms classification principles set out in the legislation”.

Therefore, this is unique. We are politicizing the classification of guns.

The question is on the politicization of firearms classification, which would allow Conservative politicians to work toward having full automatic firearms become the equivalent of a shotgun or hunting rifle. On this point, I look forward to hearing from certain members of the Conservative Party, specifically those, who in a previous life, were front-line police officers, because this clause could, if the minister is pressured, put police officers more at risk than they are today.

The primary motivation behind legislation, which would empower politicians to classify firearms in Canada, began when the RCMP did its duty. As a result of this, the Montreal Gazette, on August 30, stated:

The government came under a barrage of criticism...after the RCMP firearms program quietly changed the status of Swiss Arms-brand rifles and certain Czech-made CZ-858 rifles from restricted or non-restricted to prohibited.

The Conservative government, beginning with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, lashed out at “unelected bureaucrats” for having reclassified those firearms. He even put out a press release on the Conservative Party website as the member for Lévis—Bellechasse. He is the minister. In this press release of February 28, he said, “That’s why I was troubled to learn of a decision made by unelected bureaucrats”.

He was informed weeks earlier by the RCMP that this would happen. He is the minister in charge of those “unelected bureaucrats”. He is either the minister or not. He cannot be the minister one day and the MP for a riding the next. The minister should have accepted his responsibility and done his job. If he has a problem with the RCMP and how it does its job, which it did and for which he criticized it, and if he felt that way, maybe he should have fired the Commissioner of the RCMP.

It is unbelievable that the minister would go that far and attack the very people who he is responsible for in order to cater to the gun lobby in Canada.

The members opposite heckle me a little. They say that I might accuse them of politicizing, of facing political pressure and making decisions under political pressure. The evidence is right there. The minister caved into the gun lobby, and he knows it. That is, in part, why we have this bill today.

What is even more disturbing is that there are media reports saying that the Prime Minister was fully briefed on the need to reclassify these firearms in May, 2013. That is literally nine months prior to any public statements of reclassification.

In short, the Conservative government has sent a very strong signal to our front-line police officers and first responders across Canada. If there is any interference with any firearms issue, and it can sense some kind of political advantage, it will overrule any decision made on their behalf every time, with their safety and public safety taking a back seat to the government's political advantage. That is a fact.

A second concern with the legislation is the intention of the government to undermine the work of provincial chief firearms officers in this bill. What is the reason for the government challenging or trying to overrule chief firearms officers within the provinces? The reason may be in a Guardian article about Vivian Hayward, the Chief Firearms Officer in P.E.I. In the article, it says:

Vivian Hayward says she knows very little about the changes, as the province has not been consulted on the proposed federal Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act. But from what she has read in media reports, Hayward says she is concerned over the proposed easing of restrictions for firearms transportation.

“(It’s) just basically one step away from the U.S.-style having the gun on their hip authorization to carry, which people in this country don’t have,” Hayward said.

Is that part of the reason why the government is coming down hard on provincial chief firearms officers?

Let me conclude by saying that there are several good points that I outlined in the bill. We can support them. We can get those aspects through by Christmas, if we want to do that. Is the minister willing to split the bill? Let us deal with those issues that benefit the law-abiding gun community, and let us set the other ones aside and have a debate. Those are issues that jeopardize public safety.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:50 p.m.
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Lévis—Bellechasse Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, because of the trust that the people of Lévis—Bellechasse and Les Etchemins have placed in me, I have the privilege to serve the entire country in my role as Minister of Public Safety.

I have two questions for the member for Malpeque, who appears to have read the bill, unlike his leader, who is talking nonsense.

First, will he ask his leader to apologize for trying to mislead the House by saying that the bill would change the procedure for transporting firearms, which is not at all the case? Will he make it clear that the bill does not change the procedure for transporting restricted firearms in this country? Will he have the courage to tell the truth?

Second, what happens when hundreds of law-abiding citizens are treated like criminals because the firearm they own changed classifications overnight? Yes, there are measures in place to avoid situations like that one.

Why does the former public safety minister oppose a measure to ensure that law-abiding citizens who have not broken the law continue to obey the law and are not treated like criminals?

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

My goodness, Mr. Speaker, did the minister not listen at all? We have said that we support some of those aspects, such as the six-month clause to prevent individuals from being made criminals.

If the minister is talking about the Swiss army rifle, there are other ways to deal with that issue. People have not been made criminals yet because the minister has been able to take action under the current laws of the land. He does not need to turn the whole issue on its head and take the authority for the classification of guns, whether prohibited, restricted or non-restricted, away from the experts in the RCMP, who certainly know what they are doing, and turn that authority over to a political base of advisers appointed by the minister, probably from the gun lobby itself, and give the minister the authority to make the final decision based on political favouritism, political pressure and other things. Those are the facts.

The minister accused my leader of misleading the House. The minister in his comments misled the House. Here is what the minister—

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I would like some clarification. If a member does not tell the truth in the House of Commons, does that mean the member is misleading the House?

If that is the case, I want to repeat that the leader of the second opposition party tried to mislead the House. I demand an apology and a retraction. This is an important issue, and public safety is not something to play around with. Members should not mislead people or encourage them to act dangerously.

I demand a clarification.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, we certainly would not want to go beyond the parliamentary rules.

The fact is that during the briefing with staff in the minister's office on this legislation, we received confirmation that easing the transportation regulations would mean that transport between locations, other than those that were a condition of licence, would be possible with the passing of the bill. That would open up all kinds of problems, as the New Democratic member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca said earlier in naming all the areas that under the bill weapons could be transported.

Now it gets confusing. How can the police be sure that someone is going from point A to point B? How can we be sure that the individual, with that gun locked and no ammunition in the trunk, is not going to stop at a grocery store, or a Canadian Tire store or a service station to get gas? That is the risk and the Minister of Public Safety is willing to accept that risk. That is wrong in the interests of public safety for Canadians.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning, I was pleased to see the minister staying for the debate, but I wonder if the member for Malpeque thinks like I do that perhaps his extreme agitation is because of the shaky ground he is standing on with regard to this bill.

We heard the minister, during his remarks in the chamber, promise to change the classification of two guns. I wonder, as a former solicitor general, if the hon. member has ever seen anything like this, where a minister makes a political promise in the House of Commons about the classification of weapons.

Does this not really point to one of the severe problems with the bill, which is the politicization of classifications?

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that it points to the politicization of classifications. I am pleased to see the minister here and I am pleased to see him get on his feet and raise questions.

I would hope that he would encourage his parliamentary secretary and the members on the committee to give us ample time to have witnesses and to have the proper hearings on the bill at committee. I would hope that he rethinks overnight that maybe the bill should be split, so that we could pass those elements that I think a number of us could agree on, or even get all-party agreement for once, that would help law-abiding gun owners. It would be a good thing to get it through fast and then deal with those other issues that are of public safety concern.

However, I really find it remarkably strange when a minister of the Crown, in charge of the RCMP, comes out with a press release as just an MP and puts it on the Conservative website, and attacks the very people he is supposed to be in charge of and minister of as unelected bureaucrats. I have never seen it before, but it is not becoming of the minister.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2014 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member might want to expand on the idea that the Liberal Party is advocating that the bill, in fact, be split into two.

I am not overly optimistic, given the government's tendency to bring in time allocation to force legislation through, but I am wondering if he might provide some comment on how we would be able to have that quick passage by taking what is good in the bill and putting it aside, so it would actually pass before Christmas.

Why would the government not want to do that?