N.S. firearms enthusiasts say Ottawa's proposed gun laws target the wrong people

·3 min read
Scott Comeau lines up a shot at the Antigonish range.  (CBC - image credit)
Scott Comeau lines up a shot at the Antigonish range. (CBC - image credit)

Firearms enthusiasts in Nova Scotia say the federal government's proposed new gun laws will do little to hamper crime, but will impact legal gun owners.

Mike Kelly, president of the Metro Rifle and Pistol Club in Sydney, said he has been shooting handguns competitively since the early 1990s.

"They're not as powerful as rifles, so they had an indoor facility, and it was easier to set up ranges for handguns," said Kelly, who also teaches at the local high school.

He argued that the proposed law won't make him or anyone else safer.

"All it will do is make things more difficult for legitimate firearms owners," he told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton. "It will end my competitive career."

He will compete in a rapid-fire event this summer at a national competition, but that could be it, he said. He had planned to try a different event, but that would require a different handgun, which would be illegal if the bill passes into law.

He said competitors will be forced to use aging pistols as years go by and new competitors won't be able to buy a handgun to safely learn the sport.

'It's not great legislation'

CBC
CBC

Don Wescott, the president of the Antigonish Marksmen Association, said "it's not great legislation."

"It avoids all of the problems that are coming out of big cities, it does nothing for gang warfare, it does nothing for illegal guns, but it distinctly affects gun clubs like ours," said Wescott, a retired doctor and former head of Doctors Nova Scotia,

The Antigonish club was founded in 2016 and has more than 100 members. They gather regularly at the Department of Natural Resource's firearms range and compete or practise target shooting with handguns and long guns.

In the wake of several mass shootings in the U.S., the governing Liberal Party proposed legislation that would prohibit Canadians from buying, selling, importing or transferring handguns.

Wescott said that would make it nearly impossible to teach the sport to the next generation. He brought his handguns to the range, stored in a locked box separate from the ammunition, and with a separate trigger lock.

"So even if someone were to break into the case, they still can't shoot these guns because they're trigger-locked," he said.

The legislation would also limit capacity to five rounds and take away firearms licences from those involved in domestic violence or criminal harassment, increase criminal penalties for smuggling and trafficking of firearms, and add a "red flag" law that would require people deemed a threat to themselves or others to turn in their firearms to law enforcement.

Wescott said legal gun owners are vetted every day and the process can and does include having licensing officials speak to the applicant's doctor, partner and ex-partners.

He challenged MPs to go through the extensive vetting process to get a firearms licence before making new rules.

Fun family activity

Scott Comeau got his first firearm when he was 12 and regularly visits the range for target shooting, or to sight his firearms for hunting season.

"Shooting is fun. We do it as a family, we have all age groups come to the range and shoot, from youth to adults Don's age. And it's a good day. It's a lot of fun. It's like any other sport," he said.

CBC
CBC

The government has banned AR-15 rifles and calls them "assault weapons," while Comeau calls them an affordable sports firearm with rounds costing less than half that charged for other makes.

His wife, Lana Comeau, was raised by a single mother who didn't like guns. But Comeau has become an avid hunter and target shooter.

"I would tell them if you're interested in it, come on out to a shoot," she said.

"Most ranges will have qualified safety officers at a shoot and they will be more than happy to show you around, show you the ins and outs, show you all the safety aspects of it. Don't be scared. That's the big thing: don't be scared."

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