Why doesn’t my government trust me?

I am a reasonably honest citizen. I drive over the speed limit occasionally and that’s about the extent of my lawlessness. I pay my taxes, although begrudgingly, and I donate to charities. I volunteer a lot of time to non-profits.

I also have an up-to-date Possession and Acquisition Licence and I registered my firearms (very begrudgingly). And that’s what really bugs me.

Regardless of my sterling character and the fact that the government, by issuing me a PAL, has admitted that to the best of their knowledge I am no risk to society (personally I like to think that it means that they regard me as a model citizen), they are still reluctant to trust me.

By issuing me a PAL, they have indicated that I am sufficiently upstanding to own an unlimited number of firearms for hunting, target shooting or for the sheer love of technology. They have also said that I can own restricted firearms (handguns for the most part by the government’s definition) and by dint of history and grandfathering, prohibited firearms (Again by the government’s definition of handguns with short barrels along with a list of other guns that they consider to be undesirable).  But that’s where they draw the line.

Although I now have a licence to show that I can legally possess a firearm and a piece of paper that says that I have legally registered that firearm in the government data base (I was going to say ‘secure data base, but thought that was probably an oxymoron), I can’t take my ‘restricted’ or ‘prohibited’ firearms anywhere without an Authorized To Transport (ATT) permit.

So I legally own the firearm, under government approval, and without a transport permit I can’t even take it to a shooting range to use it. But at least, thanks to government benevolence, I can get a permit to take those firearms to a shooting range. But if I wanted to take a handgun out into the backcountry for protection or to pot a grouse in season there is no way that I can get authorization to do so. (As an aside, even if the bloody feds would give me an ATT that would allow me to pack in the backcountry I still couldn’t use the handgun to shoot a grouse because the B.C. hunting regulations specifically state that it is illegal to hunt with a handgun. But that is another issue that sticks in my craw.)

The question is, ‘why’?

To answer my own question: because the firearms legislation was written by anti-gun bureaucrats with the assistance of anti-gun non-government advisors and it was meant to restrict gun owners.

Section 20 of the Firearms Act says:

An individual who holds a licence authorizing the individual to possess restricted firearms or handguns referred to in subsection 12/6 (pre-February 14, 1995 handguns) may be authorized to possess a particular restricted firearm or handgun at a place other than the place at which it is authorized to be possessed if the individual needs the particular restricted firearm or hand gun
(a)    to protect the life of that individual or of other individuals; or
(b)   for use in connection with his or her lawful profession or occupation.

Obviously the legislation precludes the issuance of a carry permit for the express purpose of hunting with a handgun.

For the options available, the first is open to interpretation regarding your need for protection. If you could find a sympathetic Firearms Officer who was issuing ATTs you might be able to get a permit to carry if you were on a wander into bear country. But that is unlikely as there appears to be a Canada-wide policy to ensure that this doesn’t happen. I have never heard of one being issued, but then again anyone who was that fortunate might be inclined to keep his head down and not bandy that info around too freely.

But it is possible to obtain a permit to carry a handgun for work purposes. Aside from police and security guards, you can get a permit if you are a guide-outfitter taking foreign hunters on hunting trips, or if you are a prospector or possibly a forester or similar working at backcountry sites. But if you are a honest, reliable, law-abiding, recreational handgun owner you won’t even get consideration.

In theory though, a simple change in policy within the government could allow carry permits to be issued for protection while in the bush, but a re-write of the legislation would be required to allow for an ATT to be issued specifically for the purpose of hunting.

The Conservative government has promised that they will make changes to the Firearms Act and Regulations but their minority position has made that pretty much impossible. They have specifically said they will bury the long-gun registry and have made some serious comments about making the possession licences for life rather than renewable every 5 years. They have also talked about making transport part of the possession licence and not a separate piece of paper. These changes would certainly send the right message, although they won’t go far enough for some.

Hopefully if the Conservatives manage to pull off a majority government in the anticipated federal election they can be convinced to take a serious, in-depth look at the existing legislation and make some serious and badly needed changes.

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