What is it like to be a Canadian firearms owner?

Written By Guest User, Posted on February 21, 2020

The National Telegraph has teamed up with the National Firearms Association to shine a spotlight on gun culture in Canada and find out what issues are facing gun owners in Canada. 

This first piece of the series will explore Canadian gun culture in general and find out what it’s comprised of and what differences there are with American gun culture. 

To find all this out, TNT sat down with the NFA’s Regional Director of Ontario and lifelong firearms enthusiast Jordan Vandenhoff to get his take on things. 

What is the place of firearms in Canadian culture? 

“Gun culture has always been in our [Canadian] culture. We’re not the ones that want to go out in public and wield our firearms; there’s no real major demand for public carry or open carry or concealed carry. We don’t see a lot of gun violence [among legal gun owners]. 

When you start mixing in the influx of people coming into the country illegally, now you’re getting gun violence. They’re smuggling guns in, that’s where you’re getting the gun violence in the gangs—law-abiding citizens. Holders are not the problem. They aren’t. They’re not the ones that are going out and doing these things. Everybody sticks to the rules.” 

Do you think there’s been a shift in Canadians attitudes on guns over the past few years? 

“When Justin Trudeau got voted in [the handgun ban talk started]. Before, there was a little bit of talk and a little bit of pushback of our guns, but I mean, when Stephen Harper was in office, he removed the long gun registry because they found that it was useless and a waste of money. 

Now, the Liberals are slowly pushing this slowly pushing the agenda to disarm the Canadians, to get rid of our guns. They start with these “assault weapons” as they call them, then they go for the handguns, and then eventually they’re going to go after the hunting guns, and before you know it, we don’t have any more weapons.”

You mentioned “assault weapons” – that’s a term we hear a lot in the gun debate – what does it mean? 

“It’s such a loose term right the Liberals use; they say assault weapon because nobody knows what assault weapon is. If they don’t like a gun, they can say it’s an assault weapon. You know, there is no real definition. 

In the United States, they seem to think it will it’s more or less a box fed magazine with a muzzle flash and a select fire. The key thing is to select fire, meaning it’s capable of being fully automatic. Those don’t exist in Canada, and they haven’t lived in a very long time. Some older gentlemen have grandfathering status. But even then, they’re only allowed to have them disabled in their house. They can’t take them out, and they can’t shoot them. So really, they’re just a showpiece – I call them ‘Safe Queens.’” 

Okay, so fully automatic guns are pretty much regulated out of existence in Canada, how easy is it to modify a firearm to turn it into a fully automatic weapon? 

“To make one with like fully auto capabilities, a gunsmith, a machinist with a lot of knowledge and a lot of time on his hands could do it. It’s not like your average Joe could do that. It takes a lot of knowledge. It takes a lot of machine work. Everything has to be right for what you’d have to do to that firearm; you’d have to have a vast knowledge of it. It’s not easily convertible at all. 

I can’t recall a case where they’ve caught somebody that’s converted a firearm into a fully automatic. There’s a reason why the RCMP hasn’t banned it yet. It’s not an easily convertible firearm – anything that was easily convertible got put into a 12 three category. And that was prohibited with some grandfathering status. But again, that was a very long time ago, and not a lot of people have that status.”

How strict are gun regulations in Canada? 

“We are among one of the strictest countries as it is now. And to go even further, it’s only for political gain at this point.”

In the U.S., the Second Amendment and the right to protect yourself is a big part of the gun conversation. As a Canadian gun owner, how far does the right to defend yourself go? 

“It is in our Charter of Rights. You have the right to protect yourself. You have the right to life. I guess it depends on the situation. Say somebody breaks into your house at two o’clock in the morning, and it’s not like he’s there for a cup of sugar. Best case scenario, I can call the police and scare him off, but if he’s got a weapon and I feel like I’m backed into a corner, and there’s absolutely no other choice, yeah, then okay. It’s the last resort, it’s an absolute last resort and even then what would happen afterwards would be a total nightmare. I would be charged, and my firearms will be taken, I would go through a huge court battle. 

No firearms owner in Canada wants to go that route because you are guilty until proven innocent. People don’t even talk about it because what they expect you to do in Canada is to call the police and wait for the response time and hope for the best that they get there to help you before something terrible happens.”

With all the regulations and training you have to go through to be a legal firearms owner in Canada, why do you still do it?

“It’s an enjoyable hobby for me. It’s a sport. I do trap shooting, and I take that very seriously. I go out every time, and I shoot, and I try to better myself each time, and it’s a fun pastime. I’ve been doing it for quite a long time, and it’s a safe sport. I also enjoy long-distance shooting, there’s a lot of skill involved, and I’m trying to hone that in. 

It’s a great hobby. A lot of people are becoming interested now too. I do a lot of new shooting courses for new shooters that don’t have their license. By the time I’m done with them, they’re like ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to sign up’ and then most of them call me up and say ‘Hey, I got my license. I got a gun. Let’s go shooting!’ 

I’ve had people that are a little skeptical too. We’ve had open days [at the range] where some new people come out and see what it’s all about. You can see they’re nervous and they’re maybe a little afraid or whatever, but then they take their first couple shots. By their second magazine, then they’re waiting for the next fix. It’s not for everybody, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a 100% success rate, but at least when they leave, they have a better understanding. And they’re not afraid of firearms, and they’re not against others using them safely.” 

**The opinions expressed in this article are that of the interviewee alone and are not to be taken as legal advice on behalf of the NFA or TNT**

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