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.