With the Provincial Government set to intervene on legal challenges regarding the federal firearms ban, gun owners across the Southeast are keeping their eyes peeled.
Bill C-21 drew the ire of gun owners in 2023 as the Federal government sought to curb gun crimes in the country. However, Craig Bird doesn't see this as the right approach.
"It doesn't address the root problem with all of this, where the criminals are getting these guns illegally and using them illegally. It's not the legal firearms owners that they're having problems with. It's the criminals."
Bird is one of the Vice Presidents of the Estevan Wildlife Federation and a Constable with the Estevan Police Service. He welcomes the actions that the Saskatchewan government are taking to appeal the ban.
"The government, I think, realizes that the people that are being affected by this are just regular law-abiding people. When the [provincial] government's fighting for the people and their rights, it's good to see that they're at least going to try with all of this."
Bird expressed that there are lawful, legitimate purposes to owning a gun. One use he highlighted was controlling the population of coyotes in the area to protect cattle from being killed en masse. Another was hunting management, where deer and other wildlife are hunted before their population grows too large and become predators to the area themselves.
"Managing all of that has been key to all of this. With different legislation that's coming out, it's making it a lot more difficult to manage that sort of thing and harder for people to do predator control, which affects everybody," he added.
According to a report released by Statistics Canada, gun crimes rose 8.9% between 2021 and 2022. Firearms-related violent crime has been on the rise since 2013, with a higher percentage seen in rural areas. Bird believes that there need to be more focus on law enforcement, not the guns themselves.
"It's cheaper and easier just to do the nice Band-Aid fixes as to ban guns that they think are scary than get trained groups of people to look for organized crime, for people smuggling guns across the border, to deal with the criminals that are stealing these guns and then using them for crimes," Bird voiced.
The Province seems to agree. In a statement, Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Paul Merriman said "Saskatchewan is firm in its opposition to the federal firearms ban, which unfairly targets law-abiding firearms owners and will have little impact on firearms-related crime. We believe in taking tangible action, such as the measures included in The Saskatchewan Firearms Act and our ongoing investment in the Saskatchewan Firearms Office, to increase responsible firearms safety in our province.”
In 2023, the Saskatchewan Firearms Act was introduced to address the concerns of gun owners. $3.9 million were invested to develop firearms initiatives including:
- establishing a Saskatchewan Firearms Ballistics Lab to support police services and provide timely access to Saskatchewan-based ballistics and firearms expertise;
- establishing a Firearms Compensation Committee to determine the fair market value of any firearms, ammunition and related accessories being expropriated by the federal government;
- enhancing training and education regarding safe storage and firearms licensing; and,
- launching a made-in-Saskatchewan marketing campaign to promote firearm safety and best practices.
Bird acknowledged that firearms training is a positive move, as well as a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) being mandatory to own a gun. However, he mentioned that that's only half the battle.
"You have to control the criminal element as well because if [criminals] want to rob banks and steal guns, they're going to."
No dates have been set for the hearings of the appeals.