Opinion: If you own firearms, know the law

If you’re a gun owner, be a smart gun owner. Know the law, how it affects you, and make sure you follow it.

It’s Hockey Night in Canada and I’m a few beers in while watching the final Oilers game of the season against the Canucks (Oil eventually lost in round 7 of the overtime shootout, much to Cam Talbot’s dismay) and during intermission I do what I usually do, check Facebook to see what conversation about the game is happening there. But what I saw wasn’t discussion about the hockey game. Instead, I was immediately met with two new pictures on my newsfeed from a childhood friend and her new boyfriend shooting gophers with his 10/22 from his truck. And not just simply resting on the hood or sitting in the box. Actually inside truck and leaning out the window.

Without hesitation I messaged her to let her know that she should probably remove those pictures as having a loading firearm (and discharging a firearm) from within a vehicle is illegal in the province in Alberta and then provided the relevant regulation to her as confirmation of its illegality. She does not have a PAL, so I don’t expect her to have known the law – but her boyfriend, on the other hand, should. And he didn’t. But what was really and truly problematic wasn’t so much his lack of understanding of the law, but it was his readiness to argue and dispute the veracity of it. So what does the law say?

Use of vehicles, boats and aircraft

33(1) A person shall not

(a) hunt wildlife from or with an aircraft,

(b) use a vehicle, aircraft or boat with intent to harass, injure or kill wildlife,

(c) discharge a weapon from a vehicle, aircraft or boat, other than a boat that is propelled by muscular power or anchored, or

(d) have a loaded firearm on or in a vehicle, aircraft or boat, other than a boat so propelled or anchored.

Source: Alberta Wildlife Act (PDF)

The very first reply I received after I provided them with the regulation was “It’s private property. He says ‘step on my property and see what I have to say. My property my rules. Fuck that.'” Now that’s a pretty bullheaded attitude and one that is far too prominent in the firearms community. Let’s make something very clear right off the bat – just because it is your land that does not grant you authority to create rules that directly contradict provincial or federal law.

The next argument used was “if you shoot from the road it’s illegal, not if you shoot while on private property” and then he began to cite a regulation regarding shooting from or across roads. Not only is that an entirely different regulation that has no bearing on Section 33(1), but the relevant regulation on firearms in vehicles makes no mention of roads or private property. Unsurprisingly, their argument then turned to “it wasn’t hunting so it doesn’t apply”. Well, yes, it does apply. And technically shooting gophers is hunting (by definition it is the act of shooting or trapping any animals). Regardless, the Act applies to all animals regardless if they’re in-season game or not (with the exception of ravens) and it applies whether or not you are hunting – the same Act is what prohibits shooting at night except at lawfully established and operated ranges.

No amount of explaining the law could convince them. And that is the problem. Many gun owners refuse to accept laws because they were once told differently or they don’t agree with them or they just don’t care. That is why law-abiding gun owners can’t have nice things, and it is exactly the type of ammunition the pro-gun control side loves to have. “See, they can’t be trusted to obey the law so they shouldn’t have guns”. It’s such an easy argument to make when people refuse to follow the law. And this is such a simple law. There’s no trickery to it. It’s about as cut and dry and Canadian law could ever be: it is unlawful to shoot guns from within or on a vehicle. And it’s incredibly dumb to post images of you breaking such a simple law to social media.

If you own guns, make sure you know the law. Follow the law. Make it easier for those of us who are trying to promote firearms ownership and make it easier on yourself by not hanging yourself with the amount of rope you’re given – and if that happens, don’t act too surprised when the RCMP come knocking with a fine or warrant in hand or the CFO revokes your license.

  • Tom

    Well said. And you are right about the ignorance of some people. It is ruining things for people like us. Who belong to gun clubs. Follow the rules to the best if our ability.

  • Randy Monkman

    Good article, keep up the education.

  • Tom

    Is that a Federal or Provincial Law? Because Ontario has a very similar law or the same law.

  • Patrick Sheahan

    Know Firearms law period. Any departure from that puts us law abiding owners at risk.

  • Jay

    Well said, the law is the law. You may not like it, or agree with it but it is the law now so follow it, or it may be used against you.

  • Ron

    You can’t fix stupid.. when you try and are still unsuccessful, you gotta be carefull they don’t bring you down with them… good read and Go Leafs Go!!!!!!

  • Jacques Alexandre

    Great post Brian, our Canadian firearm laws are relatively simple and easy to apply. We’re not in Texas… But we’re not in Scotland either !

  • Stu

    Great piece and good on you for speaking up. Not everyone is going to accept good advice or criticism for what it is but it shouldn’t stop us in these situations.

  • Andrew Fowler

    I am in Nova Scotia and we have the same law here. I would venture to say that all the provinces probably have that law as no law official wants anyone shooting from any vehicle .
    It it sad that some folks won’t listen and are that arrogant that they think they believe they know everything. There is always someone messing things up for those of us that enjoy things. It is people like these people you spoke of that mess it up for others. It is just like the boat courses we have to,take now to,operate even the smallest powered boats. This was all started by fools with seadoos that could not use them with regard for others. I spent most of my life on or around the sea but now have to carry a card saying I am competent just because of some very irresponsible people. Sad to say the least. Some people should talk less and absorb what others say and do a bit of research before shooting their mouths off.
    Also let me say that this was a good point and a good job on your part. Keep up the good work.

  • Doug

    What if you have to defend yourself or property with a firearm from a bear or other wildlife in the night.

    • Paul

      In most circumstances making any load sharp noise will scare off a bear or other wild animal. I use bear bangers; never walk in the wilderness without them except in winter.
      Secondly, here in ON before you shoot at a bear (out of season), you have to have tried something else to scare it off such as making noise suddenly turning on lights etc. If the bear is doing damage to your domicile or is in the process of entering, you would be justified in shooting it IF and only if it is safe to do so.

  • Mark

    I agree with everything you wrote except ” Many gun owners refuse to accept laws because they were once told differently or they don’t agree with them or they just don’t care. ” I would never say many but maybe a few there always a few idiots in every venues of life. But otherwise well done .

  • terry

    good reporting , you just left out one thing they should have been reported. the cfo should cancel their pal’s

  • Bob

    Doug – discharging a firearm at night is extremely dangerous no matter what the circumstances – you can’t see what’s behind your target. In most provinces it is illegal to have an uncased firearm at night. Have you heard the terms “Dangerous Use of a Firearm” or “Criminal Negligence”. These are federal offences. Think about it.

  • Curt Jensen

    Great work: we all need to get more proactive, regarding education

  • Dave

    Devil’s advocate says: we have learned from the pot smokers that ignoring the federal law will not lead to criminal charges, will not lead to police enforcement of the law, and in fact will result in the Liberals talking about changing the law. So if it works for them, why not for us?

  • Robert Rogers

    This is the type of information that is needed to be distributed and discussed well done ,x

  • Maxwell Hess

    I just had my rpal revoked for opinions I shared on Facebook! Is that legal? I never threatened anyone or broke any laws!

    • Brian

      Depending on what was said and in the context it was said, yes. Firearms ownership is not a right in Canada, but a revocable privilege. If you feel that you’ve done nothing wrong then you need to speak to a lawyer that specializes in firearms law.