Weapons and drugs seized by Charlottetown police after a high-risk vehicle stop in Winsloe, Friday, May 6.
Ottawa’s proposed changes to firearms legislation could possibly mean owners of restricted or prohibited guns would be permitted to carry them around at will, says Prince Edward Island’s chief firearms officer.
Vivian Hayward says she knows very little about the changes, as the province has not been consulted on the proposed federal Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act. But from what she has read in media reports, Hayward says she is concerned over the proposed easing of restrictions for firearms transportation.
“(It’s) just basically one step away from the U.S.-style having the gun on their hip authorization to carry, which people in this country don’t have,” Hayward said.
Currently, gun owners in P.E.I., Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick must apply for an Authorization To Transfer (ATT) if they wish to carry a restricted or prohibited gun from one location to another.
Restricted firearms are mainly handguns while prohibited firearms are mostly assault rifles and some handguns with smaller calibres and smaller barrels.
An ATT is required to take restricted and prohibited firearms anywhere whether it’s from the shop where they are purchased to the new owner’s home, to a repair shop or to gun range.
There are also a number of places where these types of weapons are not permitted.
The proposed new federal law would “end needless paperwork around Authorizations to Transport by making them a condition of a license,” according to a federal government news release.
Hayward says she is concerned this will eliminate the requirement for ATTs altogether, which could allow people who own restricted guns to legally carry them around anywhere, any time.
“Right now, there are offences in the Criminal Code for being in an unauthorized place with a restricted firearm. There are multiple offences,” she said.
“You would never be able to convict somebody and say, ‘What are you doing at this shopping mall with a restricted firearm in your vehicle?’ It would no longer be an unauthorized place because they would no longer have an ATT. I see huge implications for the police.”
Members of both the RCMP and the Summerside police contacted by The Guardian declined to comment, as full details have not yet been released to law enforcement officials.
“We recognize the desire to find solutions for streamlining firearm regulations, but we also have to balance that with public safety considerations,” said Summerside Police Chief Dave Poirier.
A spokesperson for Public Safety Canada said Friday all safe transport and storage requirements will continue to apply.
“…including that firearms must be transported to an authorized location such as a shooting club, and the firearms owner must take the most direct route,” said Jean Paul Duval of Public Safety Canada in an e-mail to The Guardian.
“As the minister has said, we are pursuing common sense measures that cut red tape, while ensuring Canadians are kept safe.”
This was one of a number of changes to firearms laws announced earlier this week by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney.
Other changes include creating a grace period for gun licence owners to renew their licence, so they would no longer face possible jail time as a result of the expiry.
Also, firearms safety courses will be mandatory for first-time gun owners and firearms prohibitions for those who are convicted of domestic violence offences will be strengthened.
Currently there are 2,891 registered restricted and prohibited firearms in P.E.I., according to RCMP statistics. The vast majority of these are handguns, but there are also 14 submachine guns and 12 machine guns owned and registered on the Island.
The elimination of the long-gun registry does not permit police to record how many non-restricted firearms someone owns, but there are a total of 6,194 firearms licences in P.E.I., including restricted and prohibited licences.
The majority of gun owners in P.E.I. are between the ages of 40 and 69, according to the RCMP data.