New measures to curb gun violence will help police: MLA
The Firearm Violence Prevention Act (Bill 4) introduced in the B.C. Legislature late last week takes aim at reducing options to buy, transport or possess real and imitation firearms in the province.
“We are putting expert advice into practice to reduce shootings related to gangs and the drug trade. These new measures targeting illegal and imitation firearms will give police additional tools and help make our communities safer,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “At the same time, we recognize most firearm owners in B.C. are law abiding. As such, these changes should have little to no impact on them.”
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok’s take on the Bill is similar to Farnworth’s.
“Overall, this Bill is a comprehensive reworking of the Firearms Act and addresses the ever-growing issues of gang violence. It will provide the police with more tools to deal with known criminals. The Bill has nothing to do with those who legally own guns for hunting or recreational shooting, and our critic will be asking further questions during the committee stage of this Bill,” Clovechok told e-KNOW.
If passed, the Firearm Violence Prevention Act (Bill 4) will implement recommendations from the Illegal Firearms Task Force to:
* penalize drivers who transport illegal firearms;
* authorize the impoundment of vehicles used to transport illegal firearms or flee police;
* prohibit people from having real or imitation firearms in specific locations, like schools and hospitals, where they have no legitimate purpose. These restrictions will complement existing laws concerning firearm possession, use, handling and storage;
* stop the sale of imitation and low-velocity guns to youth and make it illegal for youth to fire or display these weapons anywhere a provincial, federal, First Nations or municipal law prohibits discharging firearms;
* curtail gang members’ use of shooting ranges and strengthen user-related record keeping; and
* protect from civil liability social workers and health professionals who, in good faith, breach client confidentiality by reporting information to police to prevent gun violence.
“These recommendations targeting illegal and imitation firearms will provide police with the necessary tools to advance investigations and combat gun violence in our communities,” said Dwayne McDonald, assistant commissioner, BC RCMP Criminal Operations – Federal, Investigative Services and Organized Crime. “Denying criminals access to these weapons, as well as further regulating armoured vehicles, body armour and aftermarket compartments, are key steps in enhancing public safety.”
Bill 4 will also strengthen existing laws concerning armoured vehicles, body armour and aftermarket compartments criminals typically install in their vehicles to hide and transport illegal firearms and drugs. The proposed legislation will allow government to collect fingerprints from people applying for armoured vehicle and body armour permits, to verify the results of criminal record checks. It will also prohibit installing aftermarket compartments.
“In addition, Bill 4 implements several recommendations from the Illegal Firearms Task Force report that was commissioned in 2016 under then-Premier Clark. The final report was tabled September 2019 and is based on a BC Liberal Private Members Bill (PMB) put forward by then BC Liberal MLA Marvin Hunt, which was based upon the findings of the report,” Clovechok outlined.
“The intent of the Bill is aimed at several issues. It will penalize drivers who transport illegal firearms. The Bill will authorize the impoundment of vehicles used to transport illegal firearms (also included in the 2019 PMB) or flee police. Penalties for the new offences are to be determined via regulation, but Farnworth said they would be “significant.”
Clovechok provided more details about the Bill, which will prohibit people from having real or imitation firearms in specific locations where these objects would not have a “legitimate purpose,” including schools and hospitals. Such restrictions complement existing laws on firearms possession and storage.
“The Bill will prohibit the sale of imitation and low-velocity firearms to youth while making sure that youth will still be allowed to own imitation firearms, such as BB guns, if received as gifts. In addition, the Bill will prohibit bringing an imitation firearm onto school grounds, as well as prohibit youth from firing or displaying imitation and low-velocity firearms anywhere a provincial, federal, First Nations or municipal law prohibits discharging firearms. The use of these items will continue to be allowed anywhere firearms are not banned by local bylaws.
This is important as police have said it is very difficult to tell the difference between a real and imitation firearm,” he pointed out.
“The Bill takes aim at curtailing gang members’ use of shooting ranges and strengthen user-related record keeping and will also protect social workers and health professionals from civil liability if they breach client confidentiality through reporting information to police about guns in good faith,” Clovechok said.
“The Bill will also expand on existing laws concerning armoured vehicles, body armour and aftermarket compartments which criminals often install in their vehicles to hide and transport illegal firearms and drugs. The Bill will allow government to collect fingerprints from people applying for armoured vehicle and body armour permits in order to verify the results of criminal record checks and will prohibit installing aftermarket compartments.”
The Illegal Firearms Task Force report, released in 2017, provided recommendations to help government respond to the public threats posed by illegal firearms. All 37 recommendations covered a broad scope of initiatives in relation to provincial and federal governments, local communities and First Nations in B.C. Most have either been completed or have some ongoing work.
Lead image from Illegal Firearms Task Force report