(THE NEWS/files) Craig Jones of Wanstalls holds a Core 15, a variant of an AR 15, with two Glock 22s.

Gun club, business worry about handgun ban

Wanstalls ships handguns and tactical rifles across Canada

As big-city mayors in Canada call for a ban on all handguns and assault rifles, shooters in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are firing off a few rounds in the debate.

The call for a ban is growing, and the federal government announced it is going to study a ban on all handguns and assault weapons.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent the minister of border security and organized crime reduction a mandate letter, dated Aug. 28, in which he tells Bill Blair: “You should lead an examination of a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians.”

A ban was raised in the aftermath of a July 22 shooting in Toronto, during which two people were killed and 13 wounded.

Toronto Mayor John Tory echoed calls for a ban from Quebec City after a January 2017 mosque shooting that left six dead and 19 injured.

Surrey mayoralty candidate Tom Gill has also said he might endorse a ban if elected.

And federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh urged the prime minister to give cities the right to ban handguns earlier this month.

Watching the changing gun regulation landscape are the owners of Wanstalls Hunting and Shooting in downtown Maple Ridge, which takes orders and ships firearms across the country.

So is the Pitt Meadows-based Thompson Mountain Sportsmen Association, which has some 1,000 members.

“Focusing on the tool that is used is not the correct way to view it,” said Wanstalls owner Craig Jones.

“When someone runs over 10 people with a van, we don’t call it ‘van violence’ and look for a ban on vans.”

He said leaders should look at the reasons people commit mass violence, and not focus on the weapon they use.

“Whether it was a knife, gun or van doesn’t really matter,” he said. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction: ‘Guns bad!’”

He said individual cities should not have bans, which would create a patchwork of inconsistent regulation across the country.

Wanstalls sells a large variety of rifles that look like assault rifles, but are called tactical centrefire rifles on the website.

Jones said, by definition, these rifles, which may have banana clips and pistol grips common in assault rifles, cannot be considered the true assault rifles, which are the standard service weapons in most modern militaries, because they are not capable of full automatic fire.

Nor, in Canada, are their magazines capable of holding more than 10 cartridges.

Dave Rattan of the Thompson Mountain Sportsmen’s Association said his group of sport pistol shooters has some of the most responsible gun owners in the country, and the government should grandfather in this particular group of handgun owners.

The International Practical Shooting Confederation has developed a sport where shooters no longer stand and fire at bullseyes, but move around a course hitting targets as quickly as possible. It is a fast-growing sport that is now practiced in 80 countries, and its practitioners are well trained to an international standard.

After taking the course, “your safety consciousness is over the top,” he said.

He added that a lot of gun owners are concerned about talk of a handgun ban.

Generally, firearm ownership changes are more about politicians trying to win votes than creating good policy, he said.

“It’s always a political thing,” he said. “I don’t see that there’s an argument [for a ban] there yet, but there’s an election around the corner.”

Like Jones, he said government should look at mass shootings from a mental health perspective.

“There are issues with people out there,” he said. “It’s not about guns, it’s about their state of mind.”

And, he said, sports shooters should be consulted when government looks at regulating handguns.

For example, he said the 10-round magazine limit is ineffective because any practiced shooter can drop an empty clip and reload another in about two seconds.

“But they never poll us, they never talk to us.”

And, he said, a handgun ban is not going to stop criminals from getting their hands on illegal pistols.

“The problem firearms are still going to be out there.”

Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Dan Ruimy said the government is responding to requests from the country’s two largest cities to ban handguns, in the context of the recent shootings in Fredericton.

“We have to respond to cities, in a way that brings evidence to the table.”

He is not sure a handgun ban would be realistic or effective.

Ruimy’s opinion is that with enhanced background checks and other regulation it is already “not an easy thing to get a handgun today.

“If gun laws are already restrictive, what would you gain with a handgun ban?”

Ruimy would like lawmakers add greater penalties to those who commit crimes involving firearms.

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