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Federal government proposes new ‘common sense’ firearms act

BY CLAIRE CUDAHY

On July 23, the federal government proposed new legislation that would make firearms-safety courses compulsory for first-time gun owners, strengthen firearms prohibitions for those convicted of domestic abuse, and make transportation of firearms a condition of a license.

The proposed Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, announced by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney at a shooting range in northern Ontario, would also give a grace period to gun owners whose permits have expired to allow time for renewal. This amendment would eliminate the immediate criminalization of gun owners upon the expiry of a license.

The length of the grace period has not yet been revealed.

Under the proposed law, the government intends to combine the Possession Only License (POL) and the Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) into one permit.

At present, firearms owners in Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island must apply to their respective provincial chief firearms officer when they want to transport a restricted or prohibited weapon; the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act would address this by including weapon transport as part of the gun license.

Additionally, Ottawa would take on powers currently held by provincial authorities, curbing the authority of Chief Firearms Officers.

“There is a critical mass of law-abiding gun owners and enthusiasts across the riding, including myself, who were extremely pleased to see the Long-Gun Registry dismantled once and for all,” says Kenora MP Greg Rickford. “These proposed changes cover some of the residual issues that are still very important to our constituents and I am pleased to hear the very positive feedback to this announcement so far.”

Blaney also announced that owners of Swiss Arms and CZ 858 rifles would have amnesty until March 14, 2016, a decision made in response to the prohibition of the rifles by the Mounties earlier this year.

Parliamentary debate of the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act is expected this fall.

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