BY DOUGLAS QUAN JUNE 29, 2015 8:44 PM
Canada –-(Ammoland.com)- The federal public safety minister’s office has asked the Mounties to review its decision to classify a rifle as prohibited after it roused the ire of gun enthusiasts.
This is not the first time the government has taken issue with the way the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has classified a gun and the latest spat reflects its push to obtain greater control over such decisions.
The conflict started when the RCMP classified a Mossberg-brand rifle, the Blaze, as non-restricted, but ruled the Blaze-47 was prohibited.
Gun enthusiasts were perplexed. They say both .22-calibre rifles are virtually identical, except the Blaze is fitted with a black-plastic stock, whereas the Blaze-47 has a wood-coloured stock.
Tony Bernardo, executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, said he suspects the Mounties classified the Blaze-47 as prohibited because of its resemblance to an AK-47 assault rifle.
But Bernardo, who called the public safety minister’s office last week to complain about the gun’s prohibited status, said the Blaze-47 is no different from thousands of “fun guns” used for informal target practice and shooting tin cans.
“They’re not remotely the same” as an AK-47, he said. “Racing stripes on a Mustang doesn’t make an Indy 500 car.”
The RCMP declined to comment Monday, but a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney confirmed a review is under way.
”The minister’s office has asked the RCMP to review the prohibited classification of the Mossberg Blaze-47 22 LR rifle to determine whether it was made in error,” Jean-Christophe de Le Rue said in an email.
The federal cabinet recently acquired expanded powers that allow it to override RCMP gun-classification decisions after Bill C-42, The Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, received royal assent.
Under the new law, the cabinet now has the authority to remove restrictions on guns after getting “independent expert advice.” De Le Rue would not say who would provide that advice.
Bernardo said his association has recommended to the government the idea of creating a panel of experts, consisting of the RCMP and industry representatives, to make gun-classification decisions.
“Certainly you want more than one opinion,” he said. “We need to apply the law equally and uniformly.”
However, government opposition critics have said gun-classification decisions should remain in the hands of law enforcement.
Giving discretionary authority to the cabinet to classify guns opens it up to “lobbying by gun interests to make arbitrary changes, should it wish, for political purposes,” and jeopardizes public safety, NDP MP Murray Rankin said in the House of Commons last month.
However, Kathryn Harrison, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, believes there is nothing inherently wrong in the government having the final say on classifying guns.
Such decisions turn on both the facts and on “value judgments,” she said.
If Ottawa ever were to override an RCMP decision, however, it would have to be transparent and explain to the public who was consulted and how the decision was arrived at, she said.
With a fall election looming, Harrison said the Conservatives have clearly identified gun owners as forming part of their traditional support base and are doing what they can to keep them happy. That relationship was tested last year after the RCMP changed the status of Swiss Arms-brand rifles and some Czech-made CZ-858 rifles from restricted or non-restricted to prohibited. The guns had been legal in Canada for years.
In an effort to quell the backlash, Blaney admonished the “unelected bureaucrats” who ordered the reclassifications and swiftly introduced a two-year amnesty that would shield owners of those rifles from criminal prosecution for possessing them.
In August, he followed up by tweeting a photo of himself holding up his newly acquired firearm possession and acquisition licence.
“Proud day,” he wrote. “Next up: hunting safety course.”
Blaney’s staff did not respond Monday when asked if he had completed the hunting course.
The CSSA is the voice of the sport shooter and firearms enthusiast in Canada. Our national membership supports and promotes Canada's firearms heritage, traditional target shooting competition, modern action shooting sports, hunting, and archery. We support and sponsor competitions and youth programs that promote these Canadian heritage activities. Website www.cdnshootingsports.org