Steven Blaney is Canada’s Minister of Public Safety. Tasked with everything from managing anti-terror initiatives, to legislating on all things firearms-related, Minister Blaney’s office has been a busy one as of late. However, that hasn’t stopped him from procuring his firearms license and advocating for gun reform in the form of Bill C-42, the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act. A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to talk to Minister Blaney on the very day C-42 would clear its final reading before receiving royal assent.
Calibre: “With C-42 receiving Royal Assent, when do you expect the Swiss Arms and CZ 858 rifles to revert to their previously held statuses?”
Steven Blaney: “Well, I’ve already instructed experts in the matter to proceed with the reclassification of those two firearms.”
C: “And will that process be able to move forward this summer, regardless of whether house of commons is in session?”
SB: “Yes, absolutely. The process should proceed immediately and reach its conclusion during summer for sure.”
C: “Excellent. Also, we have to ask, with C-42 finally allowing firearms to move freely backward in classification from prohibited to restricted to non-restricted, are there any plans in place to bring any other firearms besides the 858 and Swiss Arms rifles out of the prohibited class?”
SB: “At this point, we’re moving forward on those two firearms on an urgent basis because of what took place, and because the way the owners of those firearms were treated is totally unacceptable. For further consideration, we will set up a committee, but at this point in time I have no intention of looking into further reclassifications of firearms.”
C: “So just so we’re clear, in the future, any reclassification of firearms would be something that aforementioned committee would be responsible for?”
SB: “That’s right. We will set up that committee as required by the law, and these professionals will provide us with expert advice and recommendations. As I’ve said, we’ve set up this mechanism to fix the mistakes made by the Canadian Firearms Program, and what took place with the CZ and the Swiss Arms. And with the support of my Conservative colleagues, who were the only ones to support this bill in the house, we’ll be able to fix that.
And I must tell you, and I’ve been repeating this, that this bill is about public safety but also streamlining the process for law abiding citizens. We need to stop treating the most law abiding citizens in this country like second-class Canadians. And that’s what this bill is for. This bill is about respect for law-abiding firearms owners, be they sport shooters or hunters. We need to show them respect, and stop overburdening them with red tape that has no added value with regards to public safety.
I also want to mention that I am extremely appreciative of the advice we got from the hunting associations and the Canadian Sport Shooting Association, who provided very good advice; public safety-sensitive advice that I’m really grateful for.”
C: “With C-42 addressing the mistakes that have been made, if the Conservatives come back from the election with a majority or even a minority government, are there any plans to take additional legislative steps to reduce the power of the Canadian Firearms Program to prevent further mistakes from being made in the future?”
SB: “Well, we’ve been clear that our firearms policies need to keep Canadians safe, and that’s my priority. But at the same time we need to make sure they’re sensible. Adding red tape to law abiding citizens is useless and that’s why we’ve put this bill forward. And we certainly are willing to continue to streamline the process while keeping public safety as a priority. We are willing to keep working in this direction, continuing to streamline the process for law abiding citizens, and of course putting our efforts into distinguishing the criminal element from law abiding gun owners. I can’t predict anything that’s coming down the pipe, but I’m confident we’ll stay the course.”
C: “You’ve been very vocal in your support of gun owners in this country even going so far as to get your own firearms license. If the Conservatives win the election this summer, would you consider maintaining your position as the Minister of Public Safety?”
SB: “Oh well that’s a real hypothetical question, isn’t it! First we have to win the general election, and there’s so much at stake there. But I can tell you that I’ve really realized how embedded and how respectful of the law the firearms community is. Whether it’s about the outdoors or the safety of sport shooters, I was impressed with the level of knowledge demonstrated by the people involved in these traditional Canadian activities. These activities are part of our heritage, our roots, and you know, we also have other people in our caucus that have been very vocal too, like Robert Sopuck, who really feel that there’s almost a sacred aspect to a lot of these activities. I feel there is a sense of re-connection in these activities, and it’s certainly a Canadian lifestyle that we need to promote, and to at least show respect for.”
C: “Now that you have your license do you yourself plan to go on any hunting trips or do any sport shooting?”
SB: “It’s on my to-do list! I was supposed to go goose hunting this spring but we had to postpone it, because I’ve been a little busy with the anti-terrorism measures, but that’s the next thing I want to do. I’ve been dreaming of going on a hunting trip actually and hopefully I can achieve that this summer… but of course, we’re on the eve of an election. That said, you know, I think hunting and the like are exactly the sort of activities that can help you focus when you have to deliver on something big, so it’s definitely in my plan. And actually, speaking of getting my license, my father has an old Winchester that was owned by my grandfather, and when I got my license my father said ‘Well at least I’ll be able to pass it on to you.’”
C: “Yeah, that’s definitely a huge part of the tradition you’re talking about; there’s plenty of gun owners out there with their father’s gun still tucked away in the safe. Lord knows, my dad’s old Cooey .22 was my first gun. “
SB: “Yeah. How many firearms do you own?”
C: “It’s hard to say, just because there’s always a good number of guns circulating through the office for weeks at a time getting reviewed, tested or photographed… but I’ve given it some thought and there’s probably six guns that I’ll never part with due to their practical or sentimental values. Maybe seven. Or maybe eight? You know how it is!”
SD: “Yeah! And let me tell you, there’s some other members of our caucus that are really into collecting firearms. One colleague actually told me a story that he’d bought a gun for a grandson, just as a way of motivating him, and you know what… it worked! And it’s great to be a part of that tradition now myself. I also want to make sure that you and everyone else knows this is our intention; to continue to streamline the process and look into further ways to show respect for firearms and their owners.
This bill, C-42, is not simple. Besides the ATT issue of granting an ATT with the firearms license, it also adds some uniformity to the powers of the CFO, so there’s a lot of work to be done to fully implement the bill. And I am fully committed in the coming weeks and months to move in that direction.
And, I must also say, you’d be surprised to see how many people wrote to me from the firearms community. This was one of the largest amounts of letters I have received over the past two years, and I read them all, and they certainly had an impact on the action of my team here in Ottawa.”
C: “Well, we certainly appreciate the effort you and your team have put into the bill, and are we correct in saying it’s a complex piece of legislation that may not be as simple as it first appear?”
SB: “Absolutely. You’re right, it’s not as simple as it may look, and sometimes when you look at it from a political perspective it was very disappointing to see the propaganda that was put out in response to C-42. Many Canadians didn’t even know that you need to have a license to get a gun, but hopefully now that the bill is in place, they feel reassured that we’re keeping public safety a priority.”