Bill C-22: An odd follow-up to Bill C-21

It’s been a wild week for Canadian firearms owners, and Bill C-22 makes it even more weird.

On February 16, the Liberal government dropped Bill C-21, outlining plans for further gun control. The feds are proposing to let cities restrict/ban handguns. Bill C-21 has a proposal to ban airsoft guns. There’s talk about changing up the procedure for changing up the firearms classification process. The bill proposes “yellow flag” and “red flag” laws allowing for police interference with firearms owners without a blessing from the court system. You can read about it here, and see some follow-up commentary here.

On February 18, after the tough talk of Bill C-21, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced another bill dealing with firearms crime. The Liberals say Bill C-22 is aimed at making the justice system fair for all, and reducing racism. Officially, “This enactment amends the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to, among other things, repeal certain mandatory minimum penalties, allow for a greater use of conditional sentences and establish diversion measures for simple drug possession offences.

Sort through the bill (read it here), and you’ll find there’s certainly lots of talk about loosening up drug laws. That short blurb doesn’t tell you there’s also a removal of mandatory minimum sentences for various firearms crimes. Illegal possession of a restricted or prohibited weapon, possession of a weapon obtained through crime, reckless discharge of a firearm, firearms smuggling, robbery or extortion with a firearm—the Liberals propose elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for these and similar crimes.

Mandatory minimum sentences remain in place for some firearms-related offenses, including manslaughter with a firearm, manufacture of an automatic weapon, using a firearm to commit a sexual assault, and using a firearm to commit a variety of misdeeds “in connection with a criminal organization.” Some of these crimes carry no mandatory minimums if the crime is committed when not connected with a criminal organization.

The fallout of Bill C-22

It’s hard to reconcile the tough-on-guns talk of Bill C-21 with the changes in sentencing for gun crimes in Bill C-22. If you’re curious about it, start by reading the government’s explanation of the various changes here. There’s enough legalspeak here to tie you up for a while, if you feel these changes concern you. Note that, for now, these mandatory minimum sentencing changes should not affect firearms owners who abide by current Canadian laws. However, it is an odd contrast to Bill C-21.