by Tony Bernardo, CSSA/CILA
What better way to have politicians from every party understand the failings and foibles of Canadian firearms laws than to invite them to the shooting range?
The Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association, the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA) and the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action (CILA) held the 2nd Annual Parliamentary Outdoors Caucus Shooting Day at the Range on June 18. Firearms importers, wholesale and retail businesses displayed their latest and greatest and CSSA/CILA sponsored a bus from Parliament Hill to the Stittsville Shooting Range for 45 MPs, Senators and senior staff from all federal political parties. We also provided expert instructors to assist at the range. Attendance this year tripled from the previous year and a great time was had by all.
This important event was created last year by Parliamentary Outdoors Caucus co-chair Garry Breitkreuz, M.P., Outdoors Caucus Association of Canada chair Phil Morlock, CSAAA, and the CSSA. The 45 MPs, Senators and staffers were invited to enjoy the camaraderie of the shooting sports, hosted by Linda Conley of the Stittsville Shooting Range.
This is the best possible way to demonstrate to Canada’s legislators that sport shooting is a wholesome family pursuit that inspires friendly competition, physical coordination and the pursuit of excellence. It gave us a chance to discuss Canada’s wonky gun laws one-on-one with the people who have the power to change them.
CSSA doesn’t just talk the talk but here is a typical conversation with one of the politicians who attended:
“I love this handgun,” said a Canadian Senator who was busting balloons down range with a Walther PPK. “I’ve never shot a gun before, but this feels great and it’s really accurate. Where can I buy one?”
“Sorry, you can’t,” said shooting coach and CSSA/CILA executive director Tony Bernardo. “This great little pistol is prohibited in Canada. Unless you have a grandfathered licence prior to 1995, you could go to jail for three years just for owning one.”
“Tell me you’re kidding,” said the awestruck Senator, placing the handgun carefully on the table. “Why?”
“The barrel length is under 105 millimetres, so it’s too short,” explains Tony.
“Too short for what?” asks the Senator.
“No one knows,” says Tony. “And, if you own a replica of it that’s merely an ornament, you can still go to jail.”
“But that’s crazy,” says the Senator, clearly aghast.
“Indeed it is… welcome to our world,” says Tony. “And see that rifle over there? It’s restricted, but the one beside it is not, even though it takes exactly the same ammunition and is built by the same company.”
“But the only difference is one has wood on it and the other is black,” says the confused Senator.
“Absolutely true, they are identical, but someone at the RCMP decided the black one looks more dangerous, so it’s restricted,” explains Tony. “And the RCMP is restricting and prohibiting more guns all the time, based on their whim and fancy. They don’t even have to ask your permission in Parliament because the Firearms Act lets them do as they please. We believe the RCMP is retaliating against our community because the long-gun registry was scrapped against their wishes.”
“That’s not fair and it makes no sense,” she says. “I’m looking into this because it just isn’t right.”
“Please do,” say Tony. “That’s why we invite people like you to join us at the range. We hope you will see how much fun shooting is and understand how silly, nasty and onerous the firearms laws have become. We’re happy to help any way we can.”
After decades of government relations work in Ottawa, the CSSA knows there is much more to lobbying than simply making demands for change. The preferred route to achieve fair firearms laws is to educate those who hold the legislative pen. We want them to witness our pain first-hand. Politicians need to appreciate that justice is not being served, and at the same time, recognize that the changes we seek do not jeopardize public safety.
MPs, Senators and staff members representing all federal parties at the 2nd Annual Parliamentary Outdoors Caucus Shooting Day heard our message. They understand that guns pose no danger when respected and used safely. And they understand that sport shooters are not some distant cousin of gang-bangers.
These MPs and Senators have seen the huge gulf that separates the sport shooter taking part in our heritage activities, and the criminal who uses guns for evil. And, now they understand why the nation’s laws affect only the good guys.
The CSSA is proud to hold a director’s seat on Outdoors Caucus Association of Canada (OCAC). We are also grateful to the many sponsors and supporters for making the day at the range so successful.
Our heartfelt thanks goes out to the Parliamentary Outdoors Caucus, Stittsville Shooting Range, Browning Canada, Stoeger Canada, Monsons, Bowmac Gunpar, Excaliber Crossbow, Ellwood Epps Sporting Goods, Shooters Choice, Savage Arms Canada, M.D. Charleton, Graywood Sporting Goods, Eastern Outdoors, Korth Agencies.
Many apologies if we missed anyone but if we did, please know you were appreciated too. As well, special thanks to the CSSA’s amazing volunteers and staff, SCI’s terrific folks and of course, Garry, Phil, Ang, Barry, Sam and Steph for all their help and hard work.
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.
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