Bill C-230 goes to vote, fails at second reading

Larry Miller C-230

Bill C-230, an act to amend the Firearms Act to define the term “variant”, failed to pass the vote during second reading.

The bill, known as C-230, was tabled by Conservative MP Larry Miller and sought to define the term “variant” –  a word used almost 100 times in the Firearms Act and its various regulations but has never been officially defined or clarified. The proposed definition would define a variant as “a firearm that has the unmodified frame or receiver of another firearm“.

While the intentions behind the proposed amendment were in the right place, it did not go without considerable criticism from both pro- and anti-firearms advocates. Various experts within the firearms community expressed concern that many firearms that had both prohibited and restricted variants or restricted and non-restricted variants could easily be reclassified as prohibited across the board as an unintended consequence of the new definition.

One such expert, Edmonton firearms lawyer Ian Runkle, took to Facebook to share his concerns. “The definition of restricted firearm excludes any firearm that is prohibited, but no opposing clause exists in the prohibited firearm category”, he writes, “So any firearm that would be both prohibited and restricted is simply prohibited instead.”

“Consider that many handguns come in variations with differing barrel lengths. Often there is a small, short-barreled version intended for concealed carry, and then a variety of longer barrels. According to paragraph 2, if any of these barrels would be small enough to make the firearm prohibited, then all models would be prohibited, regardless of the barrel length. Runkle went on to explain using the Luger pistol as an example, stating that the P.08 model, which has a 100mm barrel and is prohibited in Canada, would then make the restricted variants with a 105mm barrel currently available in Canada prohibited as well.

“This would also end the current practice of retrofitting a handgun which is prohibited by barrel length with a longer barrel in order to make it legal. It would no longer matter that you had changed the essential characteristics of the gun that made it prohibited. The simple fact that the base model is prohibited would ensure that this version is prohibited forever, no matter what modifications one might make to it.”

The bill, which went to vote on Wednesday, was soundly defeated by a vote of 81 for and 202 against. Interestingly, Liberal MP Karen Ludwig of New Brunswick Southwest voted against her party and in favour of C-230 – the only non-Conservative Member of Parliament to do so. While this may mean nothing at all, it also may indicate that not all Liberal MPs are willing to toe the party line on gun control.