Gun Threats


© Vakabungo / Shutterstock

Within the hour of the Prime Minister’s May 1st  assault-rifle-ban announcement came a call to my office from an enraged gun owner fulminating that he was going to “bring [his] guns,”  and “come down and kick-in [my] door!”

This is a threat, in my book, and I have no tolerance for threats, violence, or intimidation.  Zero.  Not toward me, and most certainly not toward any of my staff.  So, the individual in question had a proactive visit from the RCMP.

“Oh no,”  said he, “I didn’t do that!” — but this high-calibre Einstein, since my office wasn’t actually open when he made the call, left the message on voicemail.  When confronted with the recording, he back-peddled with “Oh.  Well, yeah… but I didn’t mean it.  I was just angry!”

Here we have a self-proclaimed “responsible,”  “law-abiding” gun owner with so little anger-management or impulse control that he would dial up a member of parliament and issue a threat — involving guns, no less.  It shows, at the very least, extraordinarily poor judgment.

I’ve got to wonder how anyone could imagine that such a demonstration of poor judgment and clear anger-management and impulse-control issues would advance the notion that it’s a mistake for them to be deprived of any of their guns whatsoever — much less tools of war specifically designed to inflict as much damage as possible in the shortest possible time?

Taking things of this kind seriously, and we must indeed take things of this kind very seriously, what does the Criminal Code say?

51  Intimidating Parliament or the Legislature of a Province

Every one who does an act of violence in order to intimidate Parliament or the legislature of a province is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

83.01 (1)  Terrorist Activity  means…

  1. an act or omission, in or outside Canada,
    1. that is committed
      1. in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause, and
      2. in whole or in part with the intention…, or compelling a person, a government… to do or to refrain from doing any act, and …
    2. that intentionally…
      1. endangers a person’s life,
      2. causes a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or any segment of the public,
      3. causes substantial property damage, whether to public or private property, if causing such damage is likely to result in the conduct or harm referred to in any of clauses (A) to (C), or…,

… and includes a conspiracy, attempt or threat to commit any such act or omission, or being an accessory after the fact…

264.1  Uttering Threats

  1. Every one commits an offence who, in any manner, knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat
    1. to cause death or bodily harm to any person;
    2. to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property; or…
  2. Every one who commits an offence under paragraph (1)(a) is guilty of
    1. an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or
    2. an offence punishable on summary conviction.
  3. Every one who commits an offence under paragraph (1)(b)…
    1. is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
    2. is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

423  Intimidation

  1. Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years or is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction who, wrongfully and without lawful authority, for the purpose of compelling another person to abstain from doing anything that he or she has a lawful right to do, or to do anything that he or she has a lawful right to abstain from doing,
    1. uses violence or threats of violence to that person or their intimate partner or children, or injures the person’s property;
    2. intimidates or attempts to intimidate that person or a relative of that person by threats that, in Canada or elsewhere, violence or other injury will be done to or punishment inflicted on him or her or a relative of his or hers, or that the property of any of them will be damaged…

It’s really not a stretch to map raging at a member of parliament that “I’m gonna bring my guns and come kick-in your door!”  into any or all of these criminal offences (or others), with the prospect of a criminal record and serious jail time (not to mention no more firearms licence, ever):  intimidating parliament;  threatening or endangering life for a political or ideological purpose;  threats in-general of injury, death or even just property damage,…

In practice, the Crown prosecutor, in determining whether or which one or ones of these (or other) charges should be pursued in relation to a given incident, looks at all the circumstances including the nature and severity of a given threat or the nature and severity of any injuries or damage, as well as what would best serve justice and the public interest.

Further Reading

  • Collaborative and comprehensive coast-to-coast=to-coast review over several years regarding a potential ban on handguns and assault-style rifles;
  • Summit on Gun and Gang violence to help advance joint action for prevention, intervention, and enforcement initiatives, and help inform our way forward;
  • $86 million to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) to help prevent firearms and concealed goods from coming into the country illegally, while providing the necessary resources for firearms investigations;
  • Allocated $214 million for the provinces and territories to prevent and reduce gang and gun violence in their communities;
  • Invested $327 million over five years in new funding to reduce gun crime and criminal gang activities.  Supporting community-level prevention and enforcement efforts, advance intelligence on illegal trafficking, and invest in border security — Includes $51.5 million to the CBSA and $34.5 million to the RCMP to combat gun smuggling;
  • Firearms licencing is required to have regard to whether the person seeking a licence has committed any of several listed criminal offences, been treated for mental illness associated with violence, or has a history of behavior that includes violence — This was formerly limited to the previous five year period, but has now been enhanced to allow allow consideration of an applicant’s entire history;
  • Require purchasers of firearms to show a license when they buy a gun, and require all sellers of firearms to confirm with the Registrar of Firearms that the license remains valid before completing the sale;
  • Require firearms vendors to keep records of all firearms inventory and sales to assist police in investigating firearms trafficking and other gun crimes;  and
  • Bolster safeguards related to the transportation of restricted or prohibited firearms.

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety, recently tabled firearms-control Bill C-21, which proposes:

  1. To combat intimate partner and gender-based violence and self-harm involving firearms  (so-called “Red-flag” and “Yellow-Flag” provisions);
  2. To fight gun smuggling and trafficking;
  3. To help municipalities create safer communities  (municipal bylaws can impose additional storage and transportation restrictions for handguns);
  4. To give young people the opportunities and resources they need to avoid lives of crime  (“guns & gangs” measures);
  5. To protect Canadians from gun violence;  and
  6. To subject owners of firearms prohibited on May 1, 2020 to non-permissive storage requirements, should they choose not to participate in the buy-back program.  (This provision in the bill in fact is a weakening of the original prohibition.)
examples of prohibited firearms

Examples of Newly-Prohibited Firearms

  • There are currently over 100,000 formerly-restricted firearms involving these 1500 now-prohibited models and variants;  This number does not include other newly-prohibited models that were not formerly subject to registration requirements;
  • The newly-prohibited firearms and components cannot in general be used, bought, sold, traded, or imported;
  • Owners must keep their firearms securely stored in accordance with firearms regulations;
  • A Criminal Code amnesty is in place until April 30, 2022, to protect lawful owners from criminal liability and to enable them to comply with the law.  Under the amnesty, the newly-prohibited firearms can only be transferred or transported within Canada for specific purposes;
  • There are exceptions under the amnesty for indigenous peoples exercising aboriginal or treaty rights to hunt, and for those who hunt or trap to sustain themselves or their families;  These exceptions will allow for the continued use of newly-prohibited firearms in limited circumstances until a suitable replacement can be found;  By the end of the amnesty period, ALL firearms owners must comply with the ban;
  • Unless you are an indigenous person exercising treaty rights to hunt, or a sustenance hunter, you can only transfer or transport in accordance with the amnesty, such as to:
    • Have them deactivated by an approved business;
    • Return them to a lawful owner’s residence;
    • Export them lawfully; or
    • Surrender them to police without compensation (but take note that a buy-back program will be available);
  • An individual should NOT deliver a firearm to a police station without first making arrangements with a police officer for a safe and scheduled delivery or pick up;  Individuals should not surrender their firearm while physical distancing requirements are in effect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following categories of firearms (or any variants, current or future, included under the principal model) are reclassified as prohibited under the Criminal Code as of May 1, 2020.

FirearmOld ClassificationNew
M16, M4, AR-10, AR-15 rifle*Non-restricted /RestrictedProhibited
Ruger Mini-14 rifleNon-restricted /RestrictedProhibited
Vz58 rifleNon-restricted /RestrictedProhibited
M14 rifleNon-restrictedProhibited
Beretta CX4 Storm carbineNon-restricted /RestrictedProhibited
Robinson Armament XCR rifleNon-restricted /RestrictedProhibited
CZ Scorpion EVO 3 carbine and pistolNon-restricted /RestrictedProhibited
SIG Sauer SIG MCX and SIG Sauer SIG MPX carbine and pistol*Non-restricted /RestrictedProhibited
Swiss Arms Classic Green and Seasons Series riflesNon-restricted /RestrictedProhibited

* Upper receiver is also prescribed as a prohibited device

In addition to the list prohibited by model, all firearms with one or more of the following physical characteristics are prohibited on the basis that their potential power exceeds safe civilian use:

  • Firearms with a bore 20mm or greater (e.g., grenade launchers)
  • Firearms capable of discharging a projectile with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000 Joules (e.g. sniper rifles)

A list of prohibited firearms is available in Canada Gazette, Part II.

This new prohibition has produced a flurry of complaints from gun owners.  Let’s consider some of them:

1. “It’s undemocratic!”

  1. This Order-in-Council (OIC) process scrupulously followed the law and process democratically established by elected parliaments;  Democratic.
  2. We actually ran on this as one of our platform commitments in the last election;  Democratic.
  3. There was an extensive consultation process spanning several years in which stakeholders both for and against were able freely to participate;  Democratic;  and
  4. When Mr. Harper used the same OIC process (to increase access) prior to the 2015 election — gun owners did NOT decry this use of OICs as somehow undemocratic.  It seems to be seen as “undemocratic” only when they disagree with it.

2. “It’s Unconstitutional”

This claim typically focusses on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,  (though there is no enumerated right to bear, keep, use, or own firearms).  It should in any case be emphasized that the rights that are enumerated there are not independent of each other, and in some degree may need to be circumscribed to give proper effect to others.

Section 1 is of particular significance here, noting that these rights are “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” — That’s the constitutional argument:  to whatever extent these prohibitions might conflict with any other section of the Charter, whether such conflict can be justified as reasonable and in the legitimate public interest.  Yes.

3. “It’s a violation of my rights!”

Wrong country.  In Canada no right to keep and bear arms is recognized in law, and certainly none such is enumerated in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

4. “We should (instead) be going after criminals, and all those guns smuggled across the border!”

As noted, we most certainly are.  And it’s not  “instead of”  but “as well as.”

5. “80% of crimes with guns involve illegal guns.  This prohibition unfairly targets legal gun owners.”

This tends to be a circular argument.  But, let’s take a look at it.  This means that one in every five incidents involves legal guns.  Wouldn’t that be better as, say, one in ten, or one in a hundred, or maybe even zero?  But in any case this percentage alone doesn’t tell the whole story.

Thought experiment:  Let’s imagine there were on average, in some given period, 100 criminal incidents involving guns before the prohibition, and use the 80% number.  That means that 80 of these incidents involved illegal guns, and 20 involved legal guns.

Now let’s bring in the prohibition, and let’s say it eliminates 80% of incidents involving legal guns, and let’s say 10% of the others.  This scenario brings us down to 76 incidents, only 4 of which involve legal guns.

But now we see the rate has soared to 95% of gun-related crimes involving illegal guns, and only 5%, one in twenty, involving legal guns, “proving,” some would say, that gun control doesn’t work.  Lawful gun-owners are outraged:

“See?  All those restrictions and red-tape, all those hoops through which we law-abiding owners must jump, all that wasted money, and we’re not the problem!  We’re only 5%!  Why don’t you go after the criminals instead of unfairly targeting us!”

But we’ve reduced gun-involved crime by 24%.  We’ll get the rest in other ways.

6. “Gun bans won’t stop criminals from having guns!  They don’t obey the law!  This only affects law-abiding people!  Why are law-abiding gun-owners being targeted and punished in this way?”

It’s a strange argument.  In the face of it one wonders why we have laws against, say, bank-robbing? — since criminals won’t obey them, anyway, and therefore such laws only prevent law-abiding citizens from robbing banks?  How dare we target law-abiding citizens in this way!

It’s true, of course, that this law will not stop criminals from breaking it.  That’s not the point.  That’s never the point.

Laws draw a line between what is acceptable in our society, and what is not.  Once that line is drawn we can then hold people accountable for crossing it.

People who cross to the wrong side of that line, are, by definition, criminals.  That’s the point, and we will hold those people to account.

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