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e-3201 (Public safety)

E-petition
Initiated by Nicholas James Martin from Alliston, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:
  • The Government of Canada and Minister of Public Safety have introduced Bill C-21, which includes sections that would prohibit the overwhelming majority of airsoft guns from sale in Canada and many paintball markers;
  • Bill C-21's ban on the sale of airsoft guns will cause hundreds of small businesses to close overnight, leaving thousands unemployed and without a source of income;
  • Bill C-21 will negatively impact the lives of thousands of Canadians who rely on the sale of airsoft guns as a source of income or part of their business revenue;
  • Bill C-21 represents some of the most strict rules regarding airsoft in the world;
  • Countries with severe gun control measures still allow the possession, sale, and use of airsoft guns; and
  • Airsoft and paintball do not represent any risk to public safety, having existed in Canada for decades, and being enjoyed by residents and citizens across Canada and all around the world.
We, the undersigned, residents and citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Reject Bill C-21 to save the jobs of thousands of Canadians;
2. Fully and unambiguously legalize airsoft and paintball so citizens and residents can continue to purchase and use as sporting equipment
3. Recognize that airsoft and paintball are safe activities that many tens of thousands of Canadians participate in;
4. Recognize that airsoft and paintball do not represent any risk to public safety and banning will not improve public safety; and
5. Not needlessly target law abiding citizens who use airsoft and paintball for sporting purposes.

Response by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): JOËL LIGHTBOUND, M.P.

Whereas Conservative members of Parliament have made many promises to the gun lobby weaken gun control in Canada, our Government will continue to listen to law enforcement, survivors of gun violence and public health experts to keep our communities safe.

Replica firearms that are indistinguishable from legitimate ones are prohibited because they pose a threat to public safety and can be used to commit criminal offences. For twenty years the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) have called on the government to close the loophole on the sale and importation of indistinguishable replica firearms. In their opinion, these can either be mistaken for, or converted into deadly weapons, and have been used in crimes which compromise the safety of the Canadian public. In response to Bill C-21, the CACP’s statement read that “We also agree with implementing initiatives that target the criminal use and diversion of firearms to the illicit market by prohibiting the importation, exportation and sale of ‘replica’ firearms, something the CACP urged the government to do in a resolution passed by our membership back in 2000.”

The Government has heard concerns from municipal police chiefs about these dangers as well, and support for the measures we hope to achieve. The Police Chief for Winnipeg declared that “In 2020 Winnipeg Police Services seized 215 replica guns that were used to commit crimes. Maybe Bill C-21 is onto something”. The President of the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police declared that “We do support this legislative package moving forward”, acknowledging that “In terms of replica firearms, those have been a challenge for quite some time. They look so real now that it's really difficult to distinguish”. Over the past six months, concerns have also been raised by police in Langford, Kelowna, Canmore, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Gatineau and Ottawa about these firearms.

These are not new concerns. In 2019, a Manitoba judge urged new rules governing replica firearms to reduce the risk of fatal shootings involving police and suicides-by-cop. Already this year, there have been too many cases of fatal shootings involving police who believed that a person was brandishing a legitimate firearm. In 2015, the Edmonton Police Service launched a comprehensive public awareness campaign to discourage people from wielding their replicas in public after they reported that imitation guns were involved in approximately 1,598 files. Back in 2009, CBC Marketplace ran a segment about the threat posed by replica firearms which prompted the following response from then Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s office: “Because they often look almost exactly like bullet-firing firearms, replicas can be used in crime to intimidate victims and are often, mistaken for bullet-firing firearms by law enforcement.”

The Government has also seen the dangers posed by these firearms in British Columbia. Late last year a teenager was arrested after brandishing a replica firearm at a school. According to Const. Nancy Saggar, “police educated the youth on the dangers of possessing and displaying a replica, especially near a school.”

Bill C-21 simply proposes to close a gap with respect to replica firearms. The current definition of “replica firearm” in the Criminal Code, in force since 1998, only applies to low-velocity firearms (approximately 366 feet per second (fps) or less), such as pellet guns. These low-velocity firearms may not be imported, exported, transferred or sold in Canada, with limited exceptions for some businesses that have the necessary authorizations to sell replicas to other businesses (e.g., in the movie industry).

The definition does not include mid-velocity firearms, such as airguns, that have a velocity of approximately 366-500 fps. A replica firearm exactly resembles (or with near precision) a regulated firearm (with a velocity that exceeds 500 fps). Bill C-21 would address the gap by ensuring that mid-velocity airguns that exactly resemble (or with near precision) a regulated firearm are subject to the same rules as replica firearms. Specifically, Bill C-21 would prohibit the importation, exportation, transfer and sale of an airgun that exactly resembles (or with near precision) a conventional regulated firearm.

Canadians will continue to be able to safely enjoy airguns should Bill C-21 become law. As with existing replica firearms, it would not be an offence to possess a “replica airgun.” Airgun users in Canada could continue to possess and use their existing replica airguns if Bill C-21 becomes law. They could continue to acquire new airguns, paintball guns, pellet guns and BB guns, but not those that exactly resemble (or with near precision), a regulated firearm. Business owners would still be able to sell airguns that do not exactly resemble (or with near precision) a regulated firearm. The Government is confident that manufacturers will respond to these provisions by adjusting designs, and that airgun users will continue to have access to new models with full functionality. As with replica firearms, limited exceptions would permit businesses, with authorization, to sell airguns that exactly resemble(or with near precision) a regulated firearm, to other businesses in specific circumstances.

This approach to the control of replica firearms and airguns is not unique to Canada. A number of other jurisdictions such as the UK, Australia, Japan and Germany have taken similar approaches to these devices.

The Government recognizes the need to continue to work collaboratively with all relevant stakeholders to enhance public safety and reduce gun crime by focusing on prevention, effective law enforcement, and strong community partnerships.

Response by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable David Lametti

The Government does not intend to ban all airguns. Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments(firearms) proposes to close a gap with respect to replica firearms. Currently the definition of “replica firearm” in the Criminal Code, which is any device that is designed or intended to exactly resemble or to resemble with near precision a regulated firearm, only applies to low-velocity guns (approximately 366 feet per second (fps) or less), such as pellet guns. The Bill would ensure that mid-velocity guns (approximately 366-500 fps), such as airguns, that also exactly resemble or resemble with near precision a regulated firearm, are treated the same legally as replica firearms. All other mid-power guns, including airguns, would not be captured by these amendments.

Replica firearms have been prohibited in Canada since 1998 for the purposes of importation, exportation, transfer or sale. It is not, however, an offence to possess a replica firearm. There are limited exceptions for some businesses that have the necessary authorizations to sell replicas to other businesses (e.g., in the movie industry). Replica firearms are prohibited for the above purposes because they pose a threat to public safety as they are indistinguishable from regulated firearms and can be used to commit criminal offences. Similarly, it can be difficult for law enforcement to differentiate between a replica firearm and an actual firearm.

Mid-velocity airguns that also exactly resemble (or with near precision) a regulated firearm pose the same public safety risk as replica firearms. Despite this, currently these devices can be easily acquired and no licence or background checks are required. Bill C-21 would ensure that they could no longer be imported into or sold in Canada.

Law enforcement stakeholders, such as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, have called for the government to address the gap in the law with respect to replica firearms since 2000, and have expressed public support for the proposed amendments in Bill C-21.

Should Bill C-21 come into force, business owners would still be able to sell mid-velocity firearms, such as airguns, that do not exactly resemble (or with near precision) a regulated firearm. Manufacturers of affected airguns may alter their appearance to ensure that they no longer exactly (or with near precision) resemble a regulated firearm. Airgun users in Canada could continue to possess and use their existing replica airguns. They could continue to acquire new airguns, paintball guns, pellet guns and BB guns, but not those that exactly resemble (or with near precision), a regulated firearm.

Open for signature
February 24, 2021, at 6:17 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
March 26, 2021, at 6:17 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Terry Dowdall (Simcoe—Grey)
April 15, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00804)
Government response tabled
May 31, 2021
Photo - Terry Dowdall
Simcoe—Grey
Conservative Caucus
Ontario
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