An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms storage and transportation)

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

Sponsor

Robert Sopuck  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Report stage (House), as of June 3, 2015
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to provide that certain weapons are deemed not to be firearms for the purposes of transportation and storage.

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

May 6, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2015 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-637, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms storage and transportation), introduced by the hard-working member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.

In relation to what was just said by the last speaker—that we have cut back—an additional $300 million have gone to Canada's security agencies and of them CBSA is one. Where we pulled these 1,000 jobs out of our hat, I cannot believe. As far as food safety inspectors go, each and every day 40 inspectors are at the former XL plant. Much of what was just said is fiction, and I do not know where it comes from.

However, on this side of the House we have been clear. We believe firearms policies should make sense and keep Canadians safe. In practice, that means we lock up criminals who use firearms and wreak havoc on our communities, but we eliminate needless red tape that does nothing to keep Canadians safe.

We have a strong record in this regard. It was our Conservative government that, for example, created tough new sentences for those engaging in drive-by or other reckless shootings. We have also taken action to reduce needless red tape, as I mentioned. Chief among those actions was ending the $2 billion boondoggle that was the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. We were pleased to end the needless bureaucratic mess once and for all, and we are pleased that all the data have now been deleted.

We have also tabled the common-sense firearms licensing act, which would crack down on dangerous individuals who should not have firearms, while reducing needless paperwork. Individuals from all walks of life have come out in support of this important legislation. We have heard support from hunters, trappers, fishers and sport shooters. We have also heard support from the law enforcement community and former Olympians.

Despite what the Liberals and New Democrats would have us believe, there is a strong consensus that we must support these Canadian heritage activities.

That brings me to the bill before us today.

Currently, an individual can face jail time for storing a paintball, BB gun or pellet gun without “reasonable caution”. That may seem like common sense, but the devil is always in the details. What does “reasonable caution” mean? Does it mean in a cabinet? Does it mean out of reach of a child? Does it mean a trigger guard or lock and cases such as that? Or does it mean something completely different? It is impossible to know because the term is not defined.

I encourage all Canadians listening at home to safely store their pellet guns, their BB guns and their air rifles, just because it is a good example that we can show our children when they become of an age when they can possess a firearm, because they get to form good habits. However, I do not believe it is reasonable that people could spend jail time for not doing so.

Let me give an example. My riding is in a rural area. It would not be uncommon for one of my constituents to take an air gun or a BB gun, put it in a backpack or walk down into the woods or a ravine to shoot some pop cans off a tree stump. Target practising is one of those things we do, either for straight enjoyment or to prepare ourselves for hunting or for some friendly competition, for instance like a turkey shoot.

Individuals today are at risk of running afoul of the Criminal Code if they should do so. That is why Bill C-637 is so very important. I cannot put too fine a point on this. There are up to two years in prison for careless storage of a BB gun. How many members of the House could be caught keeping a BB gun in the closet or at the cottage? This law, as written, simply does not make sense.

Bill C-637 would put forward the same exemptions that prevent owners of paintball guns and pellet rifles from requiring a licence and would apply these exemptions to the Criminal Code offences relating to storage and transportation. This only makes sense. These items are clearly not firearms. They are not treated as firearms under the Firearms Act; they should not be treated as firearms under the Criminal Code. However, the bill would maintain the ability for someone to be charged criminally for careless use of a firearm. This is an important point to remember.

Members on the other side of the House have repeatedly said that this bill is unsafe, that it would lead to the unsafe use of pellet guns, and so on. This is simply not true. I grew up using a BB gun. It is what I used before I was old enough to use a legal firearm. I was taught the appropriate respect for and the power that firearms have, and the BB gun was an introduction as to how to properly handle a firearm. My father was quite fastidious about that.

With the law written as it currently is, it dissuades individuals from wanting to use air rifles. The threat of criminal charges for simply making a mistake will turn many people off. When I and members who are pretty close to my age were younger, BB guns were a very common thing and today there is a resurgence. Perhaps this is exactly the intent of the other parties. We all remember former Liberal cabinet minister Allan Rock, who said that he came to Ottawa with the firm belief that only police and the military should have access to firearms. We on this side of the House clearly disagree.

Hunting is a part of our heritage. Sport shooting is a part of our heritage. Using pellet guns and BB guns is part of our heritage. These sports are very important to what it means to be Canadian. On this side of the House, we will always stand with law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters.

I am pleased to note that support for this legislation has been expressed by groups from coast to coast, including the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, as well as the Canadian Shooting Sports Association. This legislation would continue our safe and sensible approach to firearms rules in Canada, and I am pleased to support it.

I continue to hope that members opposite will drop their ideological opposition to any measures that reduce the needless red tape for law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters. Given that both the Liberals and NDP have expressed a desire to bring back the long gun registry, I am not terribly hopeful, but I know that two million licensed Canadian gun owners will not forget the actions of these parties come this October.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2015 / 1:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of thoughts that I would like to share with the House in regard to Bill C-637.

This legislation seeks to ensure that BB guns, air guns and most likely pellet guns are not deemed firearms for the purpose of their transportation and storage, and therefore, the Criminal Code provisions related to the transportation and storage of firearms would not apply to these particular weapons.

The Liberal Party of Canada is opposed to measures that put Canadians' safety at risk, particularly when measures like those in this particular bill would primarily affect the safety of our children. There appears to be no dispute in the fact that BB guns, pellet guns and air guns are weapons and are fully capable of discharging a projectile which can cause a serious injury, if not death. Therefore, we do believe it is against the interest of public safety to weaken provisions on weapons that are often used by children.

The Liberal Party as a whole supports balanced gun control that prioritizes public safety while ensuring that law-abiding firearms owners do not face unfair treatment under the law. Maybe on that point, I could add a few thoughts.

With regard to the potential capability of a pellet gun, it has been recorded on a number of occasions that some individuals have actually died as a direct result of being shot with a pellet gun. I had the opportunity to do a little research on this. In 2014, down stateside, a couple of children were playing in a house. One child shot another child, and the child ended up dying as a result of the other child using a pellet gun.

As to giving the impression that pellet guns are not a dangerous weapon, used in an inappropriate way, a pellet gun can in fact be a very deadly weapon. There is a lot to be said in terms of the responsible, law-abiding gun owners in Canada. I suspect that if we were to canvass them, we would find that a vast majority of those individuals would recognize and want responsible legislation that ultimately does put the safety of Canadians first and foremost.

I have had the good fortune of getting to know a number of gun owners in the constituency I represent. From time to time there is a need for dialogue about gun laws. I do not really see where this particular piece of legislation is coming from. I have not heard anyone from my constituency say that this is something that is necessary. I have not heard arguments that have convinced me that it is in the best interests of public safety to pass this legislation.

I would suggest that if one is going to err, one should err on the side of caution and the safety of our children and the public as a whole. I have family members who have been involved in the restaurant business. We have seen holdups taking place. Holdups take place every day throughout the country. Weaponry, whether it is knives or guns, causes a great deal of fear.

It is not the law-abiding gun owners who concern me and the public. I do think there is a need for responsible legislation that will ultimately make sure both of those issues are addressed in a fair fashion. At times we will see the Conservative Party use gun control as a wedge issue to try to say that people should be able to have a gun and travel or do whatever it is they would like with that gun, in terms of transporting it.

The Conservatives tend not to be overly concerned with regard to the whole safety component, and that has not always been the case. In the early nineties, there was a hot debate on the gun registry. I heard about the debate when I was in the Manitoba legislature because there was a spillover effect that took place.

If we look at the history of the gun registry, we find that Conservative senators originally proposed it. That was through Kim Campbell who was a Progressive Conservative prime minister. It was acted on then by a Liberal administration and put into place. The gun registry is gone. The leader of the Liberal Party has said that we will not bring back the gun registry. However, the messaging tries to give false impressions purely for political purposes. Some of the strongest original advocates for the registry were Progressive Conservative members.

People can reflect on why we might have Bill C-637 in the House today. I know the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette is a passionate outdoorsman. I give him full credit for the manner in which he handles guns and rifles. I know he enjoys the outdoors, and he has written books on it. I respect that.

I believe urban and rural Canadians recognize the value of having good gun laws. On balance, there is always some need to do some tweaking here and there, but we need to work with our different stakeholder groups, whether it is the chiefs of police, the police associations, the many different advocacy groups, such as women and hunting advocacy groups. There is a very long list of individuals who have an interest in this industry and in sport activities.

There is an ability to build a consensus to move forward. I do not see that consensus on the bill before us. The arguments put forward are legitimate arguments. When I was the justice critic in the province of Manitoba, I heard from the police about pellet guns, the appearances and safety related issues. I do not believe members have been able to convince, at least me, that the passage of the bill is in the best interests of our communities.

When I knock on doors and talk to constituents, the issue of crime and safety is very important. I do not believe I would have the support of a majority of my constituents in saying that the bill would make our streets safer. Again, this is not against what law-abiding gun owners are doing, but being sensitive to what I believe my constituents would want me to do, given the importance of crime and safety in our communities.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2015 / 2 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I listen to my colleagues across the way talk about pellet guns and paintball guns, I wonder what will be next: pocket knives, axes, slingshots, cap guns? Is this where we are going? On our side of the House, we like to be more rational and reasonable on this case.

I am pleased to rise today to voice my support for Bill C-637, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to firearms storage and transportation.

The bill was introduced by the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, who has also served admirably as the chair of the Conservative hunting and angling caucus.

I have heard the arguments put forward by members opposite. They say that there is no need to bring clarity to the law, that owners of these items should have to live in fear of criminal sanctions because of unclear rules relating to storage and transportation. They seem to even suggest that ordinary people do not own these items, and that this is just some kind of “payola to the gun lobby”, to quote the NDP member for Newton—North Delta.

I believe that this comes right down to culture. On this side of the House, we believe that hunting, sport shooting, trapping, fishing, and other outdoor recreation activities are a proud part of our shared Canadian heritage. For the Liberals and the NDP, however, it seems that they have dismissed these activities as reserved solely for red necks and people from rural backgrounds.

My constituents and I find this offensive. However, constituents are not the only ones. Many of my Conservative colleagues are here today based largely on the fact that Liberal and NDP members listened to their big Ottawa bosses instead of their constituents and voted for more red tape on law-abiding gun owners.

In fact, even the Liberal member for Malpeque said that, in his estimation, the gun registry issue cost the Liberals upwards of 60 seats in western Canada. I do not do this often, but I could not agree more with the Liberal member for Malpeque.

This debate is about values. We believe that dangerous criminals belong behind bars, but people who simply like to pursue outdoor activities should not be ostracized. That is why I am proud that our Conservative government has passed over 30 new tough-on-crime measures, including tough new sentences for drive-by shootings.

However, we are also making sure that our firearms policies are safe and sensible. That is why we ended the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry once and for all. That is why we abolished needless regulations introduced by the previous Liberal government that did nothing but establish red tape. That is why we introduced the common sense firearms licensing act to crack down on dangerous individuals, while reducing red tape for those who obey the law. It is also why we are proud to support this legislation introduced by the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.

Let me briefly explain what this legislation would do.

Currently, owners of paintball guns and pellet rifles, such as BB guns, could be subjected to criminal convictions for “careless storage” of these items. Section 86 of the Criminal Code says that someone who carelessly stores one of these items:

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment

(i) in the case of a first offence, for a term not exceeding two years, and

(ii) in the case of a second or subsequent offence, for a term not exceeding five years;

That is, two years in prison for carelessly storing a BB gun. How many of us could be caught keeping a BB gun in the closet at the cottage? This law simply makes no sense and it is ridiculous.

Bill C-637 would put forward the same exemptions that prevent owners of paintball guns and pellet rifles from requiring a licence, and would apply these exemptions to the Criminal Code offences relating to storage and transportation. This only makes sense. These items are clearly not firearms. They are not treated as firearms under the Firearms Act. They should not be treated as firearms under the Criminal Code. What this bill would do, however, is maintain the ability for someone to be charged criminally for careless use.

I will give members a brief example of ridiculous situations that could arise without this bill being passed.

Paintball is a sport enjoyed by many people across Canada, especially the younger generation. I must say I have played it in the past and my kids will be doing it tomorrow morning at 10:30, and will be participating in paintballing this weekend.

Hundreds of businesses that sell paintball guns and equipment operate across the country. If someone has a paintball gun in their vehicle, even if they are on their way to a paintball field to participate in this sport for the day, they could still be liable to criminal charges if they have not taken “reasonable precautions” to transport these items.

What does “reasonable precautions” mean? No one seems to know, as it is an undefined term. These items are clearly not firearms. They are clearly not dangerous when used, stored, and transported responsibly. We must stop this focus on ostracizing those who enjoy outdoor activities, and we must pass Bill C-637.

Gun owners in Canada know that there is only one party that can be trusted to provide safe and sensible firearms policies, and that is the Conservative Party. The Liberals have said they will bring back the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry should they ever get the chance. They even recruited former Toronto police chief Bill Blair as a candidate, who has repeatedly called for the reintroduction of the long gun registry. This is despite the fact that gun crime in Toronto went down significantly after the abolition of the gun registry.

The NDP has even gone so far as to say that certain firearms should be banned and that it wants a mechanism to track where every firearm in Canada is at at any given time.

I said earlier in the debate that it is about culture. The bill before us today enhances the ability of the next generation to become involved in hunting and sport shooting. Clearly the NDP and Liberals do not support this. My constituents, and I suspect many constituents from rural ridings, will remember the positions taken by members on bills like the one before us today.

I call on members to join with our Conservative government and vote in support of law-abiding hunters, farmers, sport shooters, and paintballers across the country.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 10th, 2015 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

moved that Bill C-637, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms storage and transportation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, today it is my great pleasure to stand in the House to speak to my private member's Bill C-637.

I am not here only in my capacity as the member of Parliament for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette. I have the honour of being the chair of the Conservative hunting and angling caucus, a group of parliamentarians dedicated to a way of life that millions of Canadians cherish, and that same dedication extends to conservation programs and projects.

Bill C-637 is important legislation that responds to the needs of the owners of BB guns and air rifles from coast to coast to coast. The bill would help provide much-needed clarity with respect to how Canadian law treats this type of property when it is being transported or stored.

Before I talk about the bill itself, it is helpful to first look at air guns and how they differ from regular firearms.

Air guns are also commonly called BB guns, pellet guns, spring guns, or airsoft guns. Essentially they are a pneumatic device that propels projectiles by means of compressed air, a spring, or other gas. Most air guns use small metal balls called BBs or pellets as ammunition. This differentiates them from regular bullet-firing firearms, which use a propellant charge.

Air guns are commonly used for small game hunting, pest control, recreational shooting, and competitive sports. For example, the Olympics include 10-metre air rifle and 10-metre air pistol events. BB guns also form part of our cultural heritage. For example, members of a certain age—and I include myself in that age bracket—will remember ads for Daisy brand BB guns in their childhood comic books.

Beyond this, they remain popular with thousands of Canadians because they are quieter and more affordable and are not regulated nearly as stringently as firearms.

In Canada, air guns are generally divided into the categories that follow.

First, we have air guns in which the shot or projectile will not cause serious injury or death. These guns fall outside the scope of the Firearms Act and offences under the Criminal Code. An example is the harmless air gun made out of clear plastic or a device that is clearly a child's toy.

The next category includes those air guns that have the potential to cause serious bodily injury or death to a person and whose muzzle velocity exceeds 152.4 metres per second, or 500 feet per second. Air guns that meet these criteria are considered to be firearms for the purposes of the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. For example, these types of air guns are subject to the same licensing requirements as conventional firearms. Additionally, owners and users must store, transport, and handle them in accordance with the Firearms Act and its regulations.

Finally, and this is the category that is the focus of the bill, there is a class of air guns that falls between these two extremes. Specifically, these air guns are exempt from licensing and registration requirements. Importantly, they are also exempt from specific storage, transportation, and handling regulatory requirements made pursuant to the act. These types of firearms are also excluded from corresponding penalties set out in the Criminal Code for possessing a firearm without a valid licence or registration certificate.

That said, as per the code, it is currently legally required that the owner of this type of air gun take reasonable precautions when using, handling, transporting, and storing their air gun. The reason I introduced the bill is that there is confusion about the legal responsibilities of air gun owners with regard to storage and transportation. “Reasonable precaution” is not defined, so we have a situation in which an owner is exempt from the prescribed requirements under the Firearms Act but is in fact required to follow a shadowy, unclear system of storage requirements.

This follows from debate about a recent Supreme Court decision finding that certain air guns that can cause serious bodily injury or death to a person but are not regulated under the Firearms Act are nonetheless subject to an obligation under the Criminal Code in relation to careless storage and transportation. The state of the law is confusing and flies in the face of common sense.

Let me remind all members that BB guns are sold in hardware stores across Canada, and there is no need to apply for a firearms licence and no test to pass. It is my view that it is nonsensical for an air gun that does not require a licence to own or use to be subject to the same offences for careless storage and transportation as more powerful firearms. If we break down the word “firearm” into its two basic components, we are left with “fire” and “arm”. By definition, there must be fire in order for the device to be labelled a firearm. This is clearly not the case for the paintball guns, airsoft guns, and BB guns that we are discussing today.

Let me be clear. Safe storage and transportation of real firearms is the critical element of Canada's firearm laws. Our Conservative government has always maintained the need for responsible firearm owners to obey the strict storage, transportation and handling regulations set out in the Firearms Act.

For instance, all conventional firearms must be stored in an unloaded state and locked with ammunition stored separately or locked up. Further, to transport firearms, they must also be unloaded while in transport. All proper measures must be taken to guard against loss or theft of a firearm in homes, vehicles and businesses.

These measures make sense for conventional firearms. While the current laws exempt certain air guns for transportation and storage regulations under the Firearms Act, the Supreme Court decision leaves owners of these air guns somewhat confused about whether they will be subject to the careless use offence in the Criminal Code in terms of transport and storage requirements.

This bill would clarify that certain air guns, like BB guns, would not subject to the same storage and transportation requirements as real firearms. It would do this in two ways. It would add a new provision under the Criminal Code to make it clear that certain air guns would not regulated under the Firearms Act for the purposes of storage and transportation. The bill would also exempt owners of these air guns for prosecutions for offences under the Criminal Code related to careless storage and transport of a firearm.

I would like to emphasize here that amending the Criminal Code to confirm that storage and transport requirements are exempt under the Firearms Act is in no way intended to narrow the exclusions from the act. The amendment is simply, as I said earlier, meant to make it clear that storage and transport requirements do not apply. Amending the Criminal Code in this way will ensure that we do not overburden the owners of certain air guns. This is what the firearms community wants.

I ask all members to support the bill and ensure that we continue to move forward toward safe and sensible firearms policies in our country.

In terms of support for Bill C-637, I received a communication from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. It said, “On behalf of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, our 100,000 members, supporters and subscribers, and our 725 member clubs across Ontario, we are pleased to support Bill C-637...Bill C-637 addresses a regressive decision by the courts that left unchanged would effectively force everyone in the country who possesses an air gun that has previously never been considered to be a firearm to suddenly abide by regulations that were never intended to apply to them in the first place. By amending the Criminal Code and provisions in the Firearms Act, the bill would restore what previously existed without problems for decades”.

The Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen's Alliance writes, “NOSA fully supports your private member's bill. We agree that the court decision to define air rifles as firearms sets a precedent that threatens the freedom of millions of Canadians who simply wish to purchase air guns over the counter at Canadian Tire for the purpose of plinking targets or knocking over pop cans”.

Again, the bill, although fairly small, is still important to those millions of Canadians who own air guns and BB guns. It is another manifestation of this government's deep concern and support for a way of life that millions of Canadian cherish.

I had the honour of being on both the fisheries committee and the environment and sustainable development committee. Both of these committee are initiating very important studies. The environment committee is starting very important work looking at the contribution that licensed hunting and trapping makes to the Canadian economy and the Canadian environment. I am very pleased to say that the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is initiating a major study of the recreational fishery in Canada.

Both of these studies will allow groups and individuals who represent these very important communities to make representations to the government and provide us with some very important advice on how we can move forward to protect and preserve not only the environment but a way of life that millions of Canadians cherish.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 10th, 2015 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-637, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to firearms storage and transportation, which is a private member's bill put forward by the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.

As is typical of the government, it is not part of a public safety package that brings together a number of areas for public safety from the government itself. We constantly believe, on this side of the House, that even though bills are coming forward as private members' bills, they are one-offs, often not well thought out, and often on small issues. In fact the member could not even give us the information whether any charges had ever been laid under this particular bill. They are coming forward as private members' bills and often they really complicate the criminal justice system and do not make for good public safety policies. Many of them come forward just to try to create some political discourse for internal objectives of the Conservative Party of Canada and to try to drive wedges between Canadians on different sides of the issues.

I am concerned, and we will oppose this legislation because any weakening of the provisions to store and transport these weapons—it is a strong word—is against the interest of public safety. Simply put, the legislation would take away the criminal liability for unsafe storage and transport of these weapons, which can and do inflict injury. This raises serious concerns related to public safety, particularly related mostly to children but to youth as well.

As others have said in the House, I expect there are many who have used BB guns and pellet guns as kids in their own life experience. I certainly have. They do cause harm. It is possible to lose an eye. I had a neighbour who in fact had that happen many years ago. That was not safe use.

The member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette mentioned himself that the use of BB guns and pellet guns is good training for later in life in the safe use, transport, and storage of these weapons. Having these restrictions there makes good sense for long-term lifetime use of other guns that may be used in hunting and experiences later in life. Therefore, it is important to keep these restrictions in place to ensure that happens, because it is a training ground for young people. They recognize then that the law is there.

The legislation seeks to ensure that BB guns, airguns, and most likely pellet guns are not deemed firearms for the purpose of their transportation and storage. Therefore, the Criminal Code provisions related to the transportation and storage of firearms would not apply to these weapons. That is basically what the bill does. We maintain though that, simply put, the legislation would take away the criminal liability for the unsafe storage and transportation of these weapons, which can and do inflict injuries. This raises serious concerns about public safety, especially as it relates to youth.

There appears to be no dispute of the fact that BB guns, pellet guns, and air guns are weapons and are fully capable of discharging a projectile, which can cause serious injury, if not death. Therefore, we believe it is against the interest of public safety to weaken provisions on weapons that are often used by children. The Liberal Party of Canada believes in a balanced gun control approach that prioritizes public safety while ensuring that law-abiding firearms owners do not face unfair treatment under the law. We do not believe the current situation is creating that unfair treatment.

It is important to note that in Justice Rosenberg's Ontario Court of Appeal decision of September 4, 2013, the following was stated, which raises serious public safety concerns:

If an airgun that otherwise meets the definition of “firearm” in s. 2 because of its dangerous nature and its capability for causing injury, is not found to be a firearm because it does not also meet the use and intended use requirements in the definition of “weapon”, it escapes regulation under s. 86. It would be lawful to leave such a dangerous object in an area where children might have access to it, or to shoot it in a dangerous manner. Liability would attach only if someone actually was injured or killed. Such an interpretation would not be consistent with the public safety objective of the legislation.

He makes the point that we on this side of the House believe is necessary to be made, and that is that these can cause harm. Transportation and storage is part of the regulatory requirements to ensure that they are done in a safe manner and consistent with the law. As I said earlier, that is good training ground for guns that may be used later.

An analysis by the Library of Parliament of Bill C-637 indicated the following with respect to the consequences of this legislation:

Bill C-637 adds s. 84(3.2) to the Criminal Code, which would extend the deeming provision to section 86 and the provisions of the Firearms Act as they relate to the transportation and storage of firearms. This means that air guns or BB guns with low muzzle velocities would not have to be treated like firearms and need not be stored and transported in the way firearms are required to be. Since air guns or BB guns do not fit within any of the other categories of weapons listed in section 86, it follows that these types of weapons would not be required, by this section of the Criminal Code at least, to be transported, stored, etc. with “reasonable precautions for the safety of other persons.”

That is a very important point.

The Library of Parliament goes on to say:

This does not mean, however, that more general provisions concerning criminal negligence could not be applied. Section 219 of the Criminal Code defines “criminal negligence” as showing “wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.”

If they are used in that fashion, the other charges would apply.

I have no problem and, in fact, believe the use of BB guns and pellet guns is good training, but I do believe the current law should apply. Therefore, it does not need to be changed as this private member's bill would do.

I do not have time to quote the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, but it is very concerned about BB guns and pellet guns being used as weapons. They can be replica firearms and, therefore, used in criminal activity.

There is concern on the part of police associations. Basically, the bottom line for us is we do not believe this bill is necessary.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 10th, 2015 / 5:55 p.m.
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Selkirk—Interlake Manitoba

Conservative

James Bezan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and discuss a bill that would help ensure that our firearms policies are safe and sensible. Sitting here and listening to the opposition, including the member for Malpeque and the NDP members, talking about this bill, it shows just how out of touch they have become with rural Canadians and Canadians who love sport shooting.

Our government has worked tirelessly to ensure that we target criminals with tough sentences, not law-abiding Canadians with needless red tape. We have long spoken out against the impracticality and unnecessary practice of burdening law-abiding farmers and sport shooters with administrative requirements that do little or nothing to contribute to public safety. We have worked diligently to address these issues.

We know that law-abiding firearms owners find these requirements intrusive and offensive. Certainly, ending the long-gun registry was an important achievement for our government to move toward safe and sensible firearms policies. Most recently, as members know, we introduced Bill C-42, the common sense firearms licensing act. Among other things, this legislation would streamline the licensing system and further ease unnecessary administrative red tape for law-abiding farmers, hunters and sports shooters.

Our government believes in a balanced approach to firearms control. For instance, we believe it makes sense to simplify the regime and have only one type of license. That is why we have proposed, under the common sense firearms licensing act, to merge the possession-only license with the possession and acquisition license.

We also believe that it is in the interest of public safety that individuals should be properly instructed in the safe use of firearms. That is why our government has also proposed under the legislation to make sure that course participation in firearm safety training is mandatory.

With the bill before us, we can go one step further toward ensuring that Canadians from coast to coast to coast benefit from safe and sensible firearms policies. In that spirit, I would like to commend my friend, the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, who introduced Bill C-637, an act to amend the Criminal Code in firearms storage and transportation. It is a proposal that our Conservative government is proud to support.

It is important to hone in specifically on what items we are talking about today. They are BB guns, pellet guns and paintball guns. These excluded firearms that do not discharge a shot, bullet or other projectile at a muzzle velocity exceeding 152.4 metres per second, or 500 feet per second. Given their low muzzle velocity and energy, our government is of the view that these items should be excluded from all storage and transportation requirements and offences. Therefore, the proposal in this bill falls squarely within the safe and sensible realm.

Let us look at the design of the bill, specifically. The bill proposes to amend the Criminal Code to exclude these items from the storage and transportation requirements under the Firearms Act and the offences in the Criminal Code that relate to storage and transportation. In effect, Bill C-637 would exempt individuals from prosecution for offences related to the careless storage and transport of these items, which have previously been erroneously lumped in with ordinary firearms.

By way of example, let us say that a young woman wants to go with her friends to an open field, park, or farmyard, far from other people, and they are taking their air pistols. They shoot some pop cans off a tree stump or a fence post with that pistol. Currently, if she throws the pistol and some of the pellets into her backpack, she is liable to charges under the Criminal Code for the unsafe transport of a firearm.

This is ridiculous and unacceptable. I have taken part in similar activities. I grew up on the farm, and when I was growing up, the first gun I had was a pellet gun. It was a lot of fun, but it taught me about safe handling and how to use a firearm carefully.

We must not let the government run amok and ban these types of Canadian heritage activities. Again, most rural Canadians and a lot of people within urban centres use these air guns, whether they are pellet guns, BB guns or paintball guns, if they go out and have some fun at the paintball course.

Some members on the other side of the House are claiming that this would create a spike in the use of air guns and criminal activity. This is simply not the case. What this bill would do is codify what Canadians from coast to coast have always assumed to be the case, which is that air guns are not firearms. They should not be treated like firearms, and they should not have the consequences associated with firearms.

The Liberal and NDP logic on this issue is similar to that of the long gun registry. They loved the long gun registry. They believe that government intervention will solve all the world's problems but let us look at the statistics. When we ended the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, gun crime in Toronto went down by over 80%. This is not to say that these two items are linked. It is simply to say that those who commit crimes with guns do not obey the various laws prohibiting murder, armed robbery and so on. It is simply foolish to believe that they will stop committing crimes because their guns must be registered.

The bill before us today is very important. What the bill would do is clarify some confusion around the legal obligation of air gun owners that has arisen because of the November 2014 Supreme Court ruling. The effect of the decision upheld the current law that certain air gun owners are subject to prosecution if they carelessly store or transport an air gun. The bill will address the confusion and help provide clarity for owners of these types of firearms.

Before my time comes to an end, I would like to specifically thank the Canadian Shooting Sports Association for working with our government and the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for analyzing the Supreme Court decision impacting air guns. I believe that the legislation introduced by the member is an important milestone in addressing the needlessly burdensome paperwork that exists in our firearms regime.

In conclusion, this is a balanced approach that will contribute to our ultimate goal of ensuring our firearm policies are safe and sensible. I hope that all members will support it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 10th, 2015 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, once again, the Conservatives are using and abusing our legislative system to achieve their political ends.

The bill they introduced caters to their electoral base and the gun lobby. This bill provides that low-velocity rifles such as BB guns and air guns are deemed not to be firearms.

The member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette says that these weapons—and they are certainly weapons—these air guns are just as dangerous as firearms.

According to this bill, these weapons are not as dangerous as other firearms. The bill would even make them easier to access and use. Storage regulations require firearms to be stored unloaded and locked in a cabinet or a specific part of the house. This bill would remove those requirements.

Air guns would no longer be subject to this rule and could be left out in the open. They would be accessible at all times regardless of the circumstances.

Imagine seeing people carrying such a weapon attached to their belt as an everyday occurrence. If there are no regulations on transporting and carrying such weapons, that is what could happen.

This is not the wild west. We need to regulate the possession, acquisition and use of weapons, not deregulate them.

I would remind the House that the Canadian Police Association has expressed some reservations about the bill. It said that the number of convictions for transporting air rifles and BB guns is currently under 10, which is very low. Since the number is so low, the association believes that the changes proposed in Bill C-637 are unjustified, but I doubt the member opposite listened to the association.

Making it easier to transport these weapons will make the job of police officers that much harder. Such a freedom, which I would call reckless, would make their working conditions more dangerous, because it is hard to distinguish ordinary weapons from air guns just by looking at them.

To refresh the memories of members across the aisle, think about the tragic, fatal incident that happened last November in Cleveland. A 12-year-old child who was handling a pellet gun was shot and killed by a police officer, because even from less than three metres away, the police officer could not visually distinguish the pellet gun from a real weapon.

Bill C-637 could cause confusion and dangerous situations for police forces and for anyone carrying an air gun. Any way you look at it, nothing good can come of this bill.

We are giving people who are psychologically or emotionally unstable, or both, as well as criminals, another weapon to use against the police.

If this bill did not serve the interests of the Conservative Party and the Liberals, if this bill was not designed to help them prepare for the next election and if this bill truly was about promoting public safety, then the Conservatives would devote their time and energy to helping law enforcement and supporting them in their mission to keep the peace and protect the public.

It is not right to arm people against one another, or arm them against the police. Instead, we must encourage the best options and alternatives. This bill will breed mistrust and fear in our society.

The Conservatives only take care of themselves. The only party capable of forming a government that will take care of Canadians and their safety is our party, the NDP.