By GRW Senior Staff Comments (3)
Some Convenient Lies About Assault Weapons
Several years ago Halifax police joined most other police forces across Canada acquiring semi-automatic carbines. These are the exact same firearms Canadians can buy after completing the restricted license system mandatory course and in-depth police background checks, Civilians can only use these restricted versions on accredited shooting ranges. Canada’s national law enforcement magazine indicates these types of firearms are not 'assault weapons'.
Gun control and claims about gun misuse in Canada
As previously mentioned, with claims of an increase in criminal use of guns, gun control is set to become an issue in Canada after the 2019 election, and rhetoric around gun ownership and use of firearms is ramping up. As the Liberal Party of Canada website claims, “We will take action to get handguns and assault weapons off our streets.”
Several statements about firearms use and misuse have been made by the governing Liberal Party of Canada, and by gun-control lobby groups, even as the Liberal government mulls a complete ban on handguns and possibly also on so-called “assault weapons,” which are modern semi-automatic sporting rifles.
With an election behind him, Prime Minister Trudeau is studying a possible ban on handguns and certain types of long guns. Many lawful gun owners say the liberals seem to ignore facts on the issue and they’re being targeted unfairly.
“When a man uses a van to run down and kill people, the public and media blame the man not the van, but a punk or madman uses a gun to kill someone, they blame the gun, not the man.”
- Quote by an anonymous Range Safety Officer, Quebec, January 2019
Long guns involve semi-automatic technology that has been around for more than 100 years, and in common use for about 80 years. Modern sporting rifles have adopted this widely used technology but have combined it with modern ergonomics and materials. Long guns also involve plastic components instead of wood. This plastic or synthetic material is becoming the standard for most rifles and even handguns in order to keep costs down. Modern sport rifles commonly use these materials, often black in color which has led to them also being nicknamed as “black guns”, although they have been produced in other colors, tan, green, blue, and even pink.
Firearms hobby groups like the CCFR say more girls and women are getting licenses to enjoy shooting sports.
Heidi Rathjen, the co-founder of the Coalition for Gun Control lobby group, commented,
"These are guns designed to kill humans quickly and efficiently. They are designed for military contexts."
Firearms hobby and sporting advocacy groups often feel they are not contacted by the media on the gun-control issue to the same extent as gun control lobbyists. Their responses to public statements made by groups seeking to ban guns present a very different picture to the opinions and claims of the gun control advocates.
Heidi Rathgen, who heads the gun-control lobby group Polysesouviens, holds a photo of Kel-Tec RDB. “It’s not a hunting weapon. It’s not a sport pistol. It’s a weapon of war, and it is non-restricted.” (The exclusive Canadian importer of Kel-Tec told RCI that the photo, in fact, shows a “restricted” version they have never imported to Canada. Sporting goods stores have responded to RCI that the Canadian non-restricted version is indeed popular among hunters as they are light and their overall length makes them easily handled when walking through the bush.)
Alex Norris, Montreal city councilor, stated on Global TV News on Aug. 20, 2018, “We believe there is no good reason that a law-abiding citizen of Canada needs to own a handgun or assault rifle. These are weapons that are designed to kill people.”
The federal Liberal government, some municipal politicians and anti-firearms lobby groups have made statements similar to that of Montreal councilor Norris above.
It is interesting to note that almost all police forces in Canada have the exact same firearms that properly licensed and vetted Canadians can buy. While politicians and anti-firearms lobby groups call these firearms 'assault weapons,' the police themselves do not.
The police instead label them as 'patrol carbines'. To quote from Canada’s national law enforcement magazine Blue Line, “Police carbines are not military-style ‘assault rifles’ because they have no full-automatic capability.” (Blue Line, Dec. 15, 2017)
According to sports stores asked, the 'bullpup' style is a popular type of hunting rifle as it’s easy to use in the bush.
Radio Canada’s Report on Gun Safety
In light of the debate about new and popular styles of sporting rifles that are entering the marketplace, we asked several expert groups the following questions:
Question One: What is an “assault” rifle?
Response from the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA):
“The generally accepted definition of an 'assault rifle' is defined by three characteristics; medium power ammunition, large-capacity magazines, and selective fire capability. The last term means the ability to switch to full automatic from semi-automatic (see also “Blue Line” quote earlier). Unlike the police versions, however, civilian versions cannot have high capacity magazines and are limited to five cartridges. Of the three tests (for classification as an assault rifle), modern sporting rifles do not meet two of them. All we have is an intermediate cartridge, like a groundhog rifle.”
Response from the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights (CCFR):
“‘Assault weapon’ is used intentionally to instill fear into the public. This kind of messaging is easily absorbed by people who simply don’t know better. This really is through no fault of their own; I wouldn’t expect the average Canadian to be an expert on firearms regulation and terminology. But, this also proves the argument we always put out there; asking people with no topic knowledge or expertise to impact actual regulations doesn’t fly in any other file under the purview of the government except guns.”
Response from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH):
“There is no definition of 'assault weapon' in Canada. Unfortunately, people tend to jump to conclusions about firearms based on their appearance. Many modern sporting firearms, including some used for hunting, don’t always have a traditional look. Features such as a synthetic stock, curved magazine and semi-automatic action are often confused with what is perceived to be an ’assault weapon’. In reality, the form and function could be the same as your grandfather’s wooden stock hunting rifle. You can’t classify a firearm by its appearance.”
Hunter with non-restricted modern sport rifle. From the CCFR’s facebook page: “‘Trucks have changed since Grandpa’s old Dodge’. Well, so have hunting rifles. This government promised us evidence-based policymaking. Demand they keep that promise and stop judging firearms on appearance.”
Question Two: Are any actual assault rifles allowed to be sold, bought or possessed by Canadians?
Response from the CSSA:
“No, they are prohibited by law and have been since the 1970s.”
Question Three: Certain politicians and anti-firearms lobbyists have often claimed that modern sport rifles “are only designed to kill humans” and are “no good for hunting.” Is this true?
Response from the CSSA:
“It is total nonsense. In fact, the guns were designed for their light weight, reliability, and versatility of operation."
“Modern sporting rifles, as typified by the AR-15, are the most common sporting firearm produced today. They are available in many models with different cartridges designed to make them ideal for many types of hunting and sporting use. Indeed, even the original cartridge was based upon a very common cartridge used extensively around the world for pest hunting. Of note, the standard AR-15 cartridge, the 5.56mm NATO (aka .223 Remington) is forbidden for use on deer in many areas of North America because the cartridge is too weak to ensure humane kills on medium-sized game."
“The standard police Patrol Carbine is identical to an (AR-15) M4 civilian rifle. Do we give them to [the] police so they can kill people? No, we give them to [the] police so they can defend people. Sportspersons don’t buy them to kill people either.”
The modern sporting rifle, whether black, brown, green or another color, is popular with hunters as it is lightweight and reliable.
Question Four: Police and gun control lobbyists have occasionally said that certain of these firearms can be quickly and easily converted to full auto capability. Is this true? What does it take if so?
Response from Dennis Young, former RCMP officer who has filed many Access to Information and Privacy requests (ATIP):
“I submitted an ATIP based on the RCMP’s specific claim that 'the CZ858 Tactical-2P firearm proofed 2007 can be converted to a fully automatic firearm in a relatively short period of time with relative ease.' Asking questions about the length of time needed to convert, equipment needed, parts required, skill level needed, and cost, he says the RCMP took 14 months to respond and the 28 pages supplied did not actually answer any of my questions.
“The point is the RCMP keep saying the reason they reclassify these firearms as ‘prohibited’ is because the RCMP say they are ‘easily converted to full auto’ and yet they are unable to produce ANY evidence proving their point. Also defying Justin Trudeau’s promise for ‘evidence-based gun control.”
Women are now joining in domestic and international firearms competitions like 3-gun (shown), skeet, pistol, cowboy shooting, etc. as these are sports where they can compete on entirely equal footing with men.
Response from the National Firearms Association (NFA):
“The ease-of-conversion canard is a favourite of RCMP. In a court case the NFA asked the police to prove this claim of ease of conversion to full auto, but the police refused claiming ‘public safety’”.
Response from the CCFR:
“It would require expensive machinery, serious machining knowledge, and it is actually already illegal. If someone did convert it to full auto, they are already breaking the law. We also did an ATIP on this, asking for data on how many cases the RCMP have of people machining their semi’s into full auto to figure out what ‘problem’ they are trying to fix. The data doesn’t exist, they are creating a solution for a non-existent problem, a manufactured hysteria. It’s dishonest.”
Question Five: Has a converted firearm ever been used in a violent crime?
Response from the CSSA:
“Not that I am aware of. It is a federal offence to convert a firearm already. The vast majority of firearms are very difficult to alter unless the individual has access to a machine shop.”
Response from retired RCMP officer Dennis Young:
Request to the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program for any statistics on [the] use of fully automatic firearms in crime, and use of converted firearms in crime received the following response: “Our office can only answer questions pertaining to Canada’s federal firearms laws. Therefore, we cannot address your question on statistics.”
RCI contacted police forces in the major urban cities of Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Vancouver to ask if they had any incidents involving a “converted” semi-automatic. Although not used in a crime, Winnipeg has a 2017 crime listing of an “automatic” rifle being found in a home under investigation, however it was later clarified to us as being a mislabelled entry. The Vancouver Police Service said they were aware that crimes have been committed with modified weapons but had no recorded data on any such incidents. Montreal responded that after checking files they had no reports of converted rifles used in a crime. Others have not yet responded, over a week after they were contacted. Interesting.
Modern sport rifles, lighter and with better ergonomics, are attracting women to hunting. (CCFR)
Terminology. According to these sources, the term ‘assault weapon’ is deliberately misleading and purposefully incorrect. These are modern sport rifles appreciated for their light weight, ergonomics, and reliability.
Additionally, the national law enforcement magazine, Blue Line, indeed emphasizes that the patrol carbines they use, the exact same that civilians can buy (having completed the proper licensing and vetting), are not 'assault weapons'. Canadians who have completed an additional mandatory course and police background checks can buy these AR-style carbines but they can only be used on authorized shooting ranges.
Also on this subject, the use of the term 'assault weapon' by certain authorities and anti-firearms groups is felt to be a deliberate effort to both confuse the public and promote fear.
The claim that “These rifles are no good for hunting; their only purpose is for killing people” is false.
The claim that modern sport rifles are not good for hunting is deliberately incorrect. Non-restricted versions are indeed used and appreciated by hunters, with larger caliber bullets for large game, and smaller calibers for small to medium game and pest control like coyotes.
The claim that these weapons are 'easily converted to automatic fire' is false, and Canadian law enforcement officials everywhere know it.
In spite of several efforts by private individuals and these groups above to find evidence of claims that modern sport rifles can be converted easily to fully automatic mode, there seems to be no evidence available to that claim, or that a converted firearm has ever been used in a crime.