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Senator Plett argues in the Senate for public reporting of firearms reclassifications


Hon. Donald Neil Plett: 

Honourable senators, I have a few comments to make. I’ll start with addressing what Senator Pratte just said.

Senator Pratte is indeed correct that some consideration is being given to making a firearms reference table. Although this is a good step, it is not enough for a number of reasons.

First, this disclosure should be mandatory and not voluntary. This amendment would make such disclosure a statutory requirement, not just an aspirational goal.

Second, the firearms reference table contains over 150,000 entries. It would be an overwhelming task for parliamentarians and firearms owners to track changes being made. What is needed is an annual report that summarizes the changes made during that year.

Third, this amendment calls for the reasons to be given for the changes that are made. It is imperative, because it ensures transparency and public accountability for the changes that are made.

That’s in reference to what Senator Pratte just said.

This amendment, colleagues, is necessary because the RCMP are not currently required to issue any public notification when a firearm is reclassified. One day, you are the owner of a non-restricted firearm, and the next day, it is a restricted or prohibited firearm. You have no way of knowing that this just happened. There is no press release. There is no report to Parliament. There is no public notification of any kind. Instead, the firearms reference table is quietly updated.

The problem with this is that the reference table is not public. The use of the table is limited to the RCMP and individuals who have been authorized by the RCMP, members of the police community, specific public agents and approved firearm verifiers.

Typically, the way the firearms community becomes aware of a reclassification is when someone is arrested and charged. Now, I wish I was exaggerating, but I am not. There are many examples of firearms owners being blindsided due to the reclassification decisions. The tragic result of this is that they are charged when possessing a restricted or prohibited firearm or device and must face charges under the Criminal Code. In one case that I know of, the individual charged had purchased the product only two months prior and had no knowledge of the reclassification. Colleagues, this needs to change.

The amendment being proposed today is a very modest one. It would require the Commissioner of Firearms to prepare an annual report of the firearms that were reclassified during that year, along with the reasons for the reclassification. There is no reason why that shouldn’t happen. Although modest, such a measure would help to begin to address the lack of transparency surrounding the reclassification of firearms and ensure that the firearms owners are made aware of such changes.

Colleagues, I urge you to support this amendment. Thank you.

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