Does Canada's Gun Ban Affect Hunting?

Hunters, retailers and firearms manufacturers are scrambling to make sense of Canada's extensive gun ban, which lists about 1,500 firearms and has language regarding the bore size of shotguns.

Does Canada's Gun Ban Affect Hunting?

Hunters, retailers and firearms manufacturers are scrambling to make sense of Canada's extensive gun ban, which lists about 1,500 firearms and has language regarding the bore size of shotguns.

Confusion has reigned ever since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced it May 1 following Canada's worst mass shooting. Trudeau had announced in 2019 he would present gun control legislation to Parliament to ban semi-automatic weapons and allow individual municipalities to prohibit or restrict handguns.

The ban has been contentious, partly because of the way it was done by Cabinet Order and not through Parliament. It also has waterfowl hunters, retailers and manufacturers upset and awaiting clear, non-confusing information.

One part of that is about semi-automatic shotguns and bore sizes. The gun ban's language says shotgun bores cannot exceed 20mm, which would affect 10- and 12-gauge shotguns if a screw-in choke is removed. Thus the confusion and fear of potential problems.

The Canadian Sports Shooting Association (CSSA) posted a legal opinion from attorney and longtime gun rights advocate Edward Burlew of Thornhill, Ontario. His interpretation was that with the chokes removed in some shotguns the bore would violate the Cabinet Order.

Canada Minister Bill Blair disputes this, however, and said hunting would not be affected. A spokesman told the CBC, "The regulation introduced on May 1 does not prohibit 10 and 12 gauge shotguns. The regulation for 10 and 12 gauge is based on their standard size, both under 20 mm. In accordance with acceptable firearms industry standards, the definition for bore diameter explicitly states that is after the chamber, but before the choke in shotguns. Therefore, if the measurement is taken at any other location, it is not a factor that is being considered under amendment 95 of the Regulations."

The CSSA didn't go for that, however, with managing director Alison de Groot telling the CBC that retail owners and manufacturers still are confused and uncertain. 

"We are not satisfied with a tweet from the minister that everything is OK as the basis for our whole industry's future," she said. "There is lots of precedent in [Canadian] law and technical language in legal government documents our industry uses every day that conflicts with this tweeted response. We are a $5.9 billion industry in Canada supporting 48,000 full time equivalent jobs. So no, a Trump-like tweet is not going to cover it."

de Groot also called the list "incoherent," telling the National Post that some manufacturers may protest being on the banned list while competitors with similar products are not. She said ignorance among Cabinet members about the supply chain shipping and receiving process also has created confusion and fear among manufacturers and retailers. 

As part of the ban, certain exemptions have been made for Indigenous people, sustenance hunters and others along with discussion about a buy-back program and amnesty period. The amnesty period expires April 20, 2022. Details of the buy-back program have not been announced.

Spring waterfowl season for Ross and snow geese is ongoing in Alberta through June 15, which has posed questions for hunters and outfitters.

Are 12- and 10-gauge shotguns illegal? The Cabinet minister says no but the ban's bore size language could be construed differently by some law enforcement officers.

A Canada sales rep for one major firearm manufacturer said via email, "There is and there's not a ban. On paper Order in Council the 12 ga and 10ga have more than 20mm without the choke. The minister of security sent out a Tweet saying they are NOT banned. Right now everyone is waiting to get a more official confirmation than tweet. Guys are still going hunting."

Residents of Nunavut say the ban won't greatly affect them other than for a few hunters who may use the Ruger Mini-14 for caribou. On Prince Edward Island, members of a target shooting association say plans to introduce women to the sport will change due to the ban.

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