New firearms legislation proposed by the B.C. government is aimed at tackling gang- and drug trade-related shootings.
Bill 4, formally titled the Firearm Violence Prevention Act, is drafted from recommendations that came out of the provincial Illegal Firearms Task Force, which tabled its report in 2017.
The task force was announced in 2016 after a spike in "firearms-related homicides and attempted homicides related to gang violence and the drug trade", according to the report's introduction.
The report noted that there had been more than 2,000 incidents involving the criminal use of firearms in B.C. in 2015.
"We are putting expert advice into practice to reduce shootings related to gangs and the drug trade," Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in a March 3 news release.
"These new measures targeting illegal and imitation firearms will give police additional tools and help make our communities safer. At the same time, we recognize most firearm owners in B.C. are law abiding. As such, these changes should have little to no impact on them."
The legislation, if passed, will accomplish the following, according to the release:
- penalize drivers who transport illegal firearms;
- authorize the impoundment of vehicles used to transport illegal firearms or flee police;
- prohibit people from having real or imitation firearms in specific locations, like schools and hospitals, where they have no legitimate purpose. These restrictions will complement existing laws concerning firearm possession, use, handling and storage;
- stop the sale of imitation and low-velocity guns to youth and make it illegal for youth to fire or display these weapons anywhere a provincial, federal, First Nations or municipal law prohibits discharging firearms;
- curtail gang members' use of shooting ranges and strengthen user-related record keeping; and
- protect from civil liability social workers and health professionals who, in good faith, breach client confidentiality by reporting information to police to prevent gun violence.
The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General noted that Bill 4 will also bolster criminal-record checks by allowing fingerprints to be taken from those applying for permits for body armour, armoured vehicles, and secret compartments built into vehicles.
Dwayne McDonald, the assistant commissioner of B.C. RCMP criminal operations-federal, investigative services, and organized crime, praised the proposed legislation.
"These recommendations targeting illegal and imitation firearms will provide police with the necessary tools to advance investigations and combat gun violence in our communities," McDonald said in the release.
"Denying criminals access to these weapons, as well as further regulating armoured vehicles, body armour, and aftermarket compartments, are key steps in enhancing public safety."