The federal government’s move to ban assault style firearms is generating controversy in the Okanagan.
A Vernon organization that runs a domestic violence transition home is praising the move as a step towards safer communities, but it’s also leaving gun enthusiasts fuming.
Among those upset with the ban is Ryan Pat who enjoys sport shooting and also owns Monashee Outdoors, an Armstrong outdoor outfitting store that sells guns.
He questions whether the step will actually prevent violence, pointing out criminals are unlikely to abide by the ban.
“It is the criminal element that needs to be addressed. We need to find those people that are causing harm, put them in jail, keep them in jail,” Pat said.
“The law-abiding citizens that are following the rules — leave them be.”
The ban aims to curb gun violence.
The newly-prohibited weapons “have no legitimate civilian use, as they are designed to take as many lives as possible, as efficiently as possible,” Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for the Minister of Public Safety’s office, said in a statement.
For the federal government, it’s not a question of whether Ottawa should increase gun control or tackle gun crime and trafficking. It aims to do both.
“The assault-weapons ban is one piece in the larger puzzle of ending gun violence,” said Power.
The ban also has its supporters.
An executive director of the organization that runs a domestic violence transition house in Vernon calling it a good first step.
“I do feel it will create certainly safer communities,” said Micki Materi, the co-executive director for Archway Society for Domestic Peace.
“I can certainly see where limiting access to, making it harder for people to access, these kinds of weapons does create greater safety for women.”
Meanwhile, how the ban was instituted is also coming under fire.
“They are side-stepping the democratic process. They did this through an order-in-council, ignoring the opportunity for parliamentarians to discuss the changes,” said North Okanagan – Shuswap Conservative MP Mel Arnold.
Pat said how the ban was enacted left him “fuming.”
“I’m irate about the fact that it just totally bypassed legislation, just all of a sudden these are banned,” he said.
The federal government has pushed back on suggestions it was undemocratic to make the change through an order-in-council, pointing out the ban follows extensive public consultation and fulfills a campaign promise the Liberals were elected on.