Canadian firearms advocate Sheldon Clare blasts Liberal plan to ban so-called ‘assault rifles’

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      A Canadian gun advocate is firing back on the plan by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to ban certain types of firearms.

      Sheldon Clare, president of the National Firearms Association (NFA), claimed that the Liberals’ platform pledge to prohibit so-called “assault rifles” or “assault weapons” like the AR-15 is merely an election ploy to win votes.

      “This is all about appealing to people’s fears to try to get them to support Liberals,” Clare told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview Thursday (October 10).

      The Liberal platform states that “assault rifles” or “assault weapons” are “designed to inflict mass casualties and have no place in Canada”.

      But according to Clare, Liberals are employing a “false terminology intended to mislead people” when they use the terms “assault weapons” or “assault rifles”.

      “They tend to use the term ‘weapon’, they tend to use the term ‘assault’, and they tend to try to use it to mean firearms that are very, very popularly owned by a large of number of Canadians, and they tend to scapegoat those Canadians for problems that they have been unable to deal with in terms of criminal activity by a very few people in some very large cities,” Clare asserted.

      Clare, an instructor in history and business at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, explained why the terms “assault rifles” and “assault weapons” are misleading.

      “A weapon is only a weapon if it’s something that’s used as one,” Clare explained. “For example, a hammer is a tool when it pounds a nail, but it’s a weapon if someone uses it to harm someone. A rock is a decorative addition to a garden or a device that someone could use to injure someone.”

      The NFA president said that firearms that are owned by Canadians who are licenced to possess guns are “not weapons”.

      “They are there for their personal enjoyment,” according to Clare, noting that most are used for target shooting and hunting.

      The 2017 Commissioner of Firearms Report by the RCMP stated that in that year, around 2.1 million Canadians held valid firearms licences.

      In B.C., a total 288,794 people were allowed to own guns during that year.

      The same report noted that as of December 31, 2017, there were more than one million restricted or prohibited firearms registered to individuals and businesses.

      Restricted firearms are certain types of handguns and semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15.

      Prohibited firearms are comprised of certain handguns and fully automatic firearms.

      Based on the RCMP report, British Columbians had 198,758 restricted or prohibited firearms in 2017.

      In addition to these two classifications, a third class of firearms in Canada consists of non-restricted firearms like shotguns and certain rifles.

      In October 2018, Public Safety Canada released a paper title Reducing Violent Crime: A Dialogue on Handguns and Assault Weapons.

      According to the paper, “assault weapon” is not legally defined in Canada’s firearms legislation.

      “Various international jurisdictions use different terms and definitions, often based on physical characteristics,” the paper noted. “For illustrative purposes, the US Department of Justice has used the following description: ‘in general, assault weapons are semiautomatic firearms with a large magazine of ammunition that were designed and configured for rapid fire’”.

      The document also stated that because “assault weapon” is not a legally-defined term, “providing a count of how many are held in Canada is not possible”.

      “However, there are about 100,000 legally-owned restricted and prohibited non-handgun firearms – usually rifles and shotguns – registered to individuals,” the paper noted. “Some of these could have features consistent with what is described as an assault weapon. The number of non-restricted firearms with such features is not known. Individuals own these in the context of sport shooting activities, because they form a part of a collection, or for hunting.”

      According to the Liberal platform, farmers and hunters “do not use or need assault weapons”.

      It is also often said that people generally do not need to own an “assault rifle”.

      Responding to these, Clare said: “There all kinds of things that people want. People have hobbies. People like to have a particular type of car or truck. They may or may not need them, and the fact of the matter is these things are legal.”

      “They’re perfectly safe in the hands of safe people,” Clare continued. “There should be no stigma attached to peaceful possession of firearms. Peaceful possession of firearms is not a crime, and should not be a crime.”