B.C. gun shops see surge in customers after Canada moves to cap handgun sales

·3 min read
Dan Shemley, warehouse manager of Great North Precision Canada in Kelowna, B.C., says after the federal government tabled legislation to restrict handgun sales, customers had bought every handgun the store had in stock by noon the next day. (Brady Strachan/CBC News - image credit)
Dan Shemley, warehouse manager of Great North Precision Canada in Kelowna, B.C., says after the federal government tabled legislation to restrict handgun sales, customers had bought every handgun the store had in stock by noon the next day. (Brady Strachan/CBC News - image credit)

A proposed national freeze on the sale of handguns in Canada has some British Columbians scrambling to get their hands on one while they still can.

On Monday, the federal government tabled legislation that would stop the purchase, sale, importation and transfer of handguns in the country. The restrictions are part of Bill C-21 which is expected to be in full force this fall and, since the pending law was announced, B.C. gun shop owners say they have seen a surge in sales.

"You get a lot of people that as soon as they announce new gun control measures, everyone wants to go in and buy a gun," said Dan Shemley, warehouse manager of Great North Precision Canada, which sells firearms in Kelowna, B.C.

Currently, to purchase a handgun in Canada, a person must have a restricted firearms licence.

Shemley, speaking on Daybreak South, said he estimates handgun sales make up roughly 10 to 15 per cent of the store's business, but the pending legislation has driven up demand and the store is currently "chaotic" with licensed fire arm operators racing to get what's left in stock.

He says the store had sold out of all the handguns it had by noon on Tuesday.

Daybreak South producers called three other stores that sell handguns in the Kelowna area this week and all of them said they were extremely busy.

On Tuesday, a line of customers had formed on the street outside Reliable Gun, a firearms store in Vancouver, B.C. Reliable Gun's website now has a note posted saying the store is closed until further notice as staff "works relentlessly to get all the current orders processed."

CBC News reached out to Reliable Gun but did not receive a response.

Dan Burritt/CBC News
Dan Burritt/CBC News

No guns left to buy

Aman Sandhu is a restricted firearms licence-holder living in Dawson Creek, B.C., who is now looking to buy a handgun after hearing others like himself were doing it while they could.

He said he couldn't find one in his community left to buy.

"All the local shooters here are panicked and they feel like a really big right they had is being taken away," said Sandhu, who is a member of the Dawson Creek Sportsman's Club.

Both Sandhu and Shemley are critical of the pending prohibition, saying it is not an effective way to combat gun violence because of how strict regulations are for purchasers in this country.

Shemley said Canadian firearm owners are not the problem, but are being punished to prevent crimes perpetrated by criminals.

"The guy that's going to go in and rob the bank with a gun, that guy is not going to have a registered gun. He's not going to have a licence. He's not going to call the firearms office and say, 'Hey, guys, I'm taking my gun to the bank to rob it, can I get a piece of paper that says that's okay?'" said Shemley.

A limited number of people would be exempt from the handgun restrictions under the new legislation, including elite sport shooters and those with authorization to carry, such as valuable goods carriers, senior government officials said in a briefing.

LISTEN | A gun shop manager on the rush to purchase handguns

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