Good morning, colleagues and witnesses. Welcome to meeting number 70 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
Today, we are following up our study on Bill . We have witnesses for the first hour and the second hour.
I would just notify the committee that we will be breaking in the second hour to go to committee business for a few minutes at the end so that we have a schedule to come back to on the 28th. Give some thought to that, knowing that this will be coming up.
In this first hour, we have with us, in person, Mr. Greg Farrant, manager of government affairs and policy at the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. By way of teleconference from Winfield, Alberta, we have Mr. Todd Brown from the Concerned Firearm Owners of Alberta. We will not have video, but we should have audio.
Mr. Brown, could we have a little word from you to make sure we are all live here?
Good morning, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, and Mr. Brown in absentia.
On behalf of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, the largest conservation-based organization in Ontario, our 100,000 members, supporters, and subscribers, and our 725 member clubs across the province thank you for the courtesy of inviting me to appear before the committee to speak to Bill .
I will attempt to keep my remarks as succinct as the bill is.
It's been clear from some of the discussion around this legislation and from some of the comments made in the House that there is confusion about what the legislation does or does not do and why it is necessary. Frankly speaking, I think some of that confusion is justified, given the diversity of legal judgments and opinions that exist in case law around this matter. As someone who deals with firearms-related matters on a regular basis, initially I too found the issue to be, as my father would have said, clear as mud.
I'm not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one. However, my job requires me to read a lot of case law related to firearms. Before my appearance today, I spent considerable time reviewing the arguments in cases such as R. v. McManus, R. v. Felawka, R. v. Formosa, R. v. Labrecque, and R. v. Dunn in order to gain a better understanding of why the bill is necessary and what it seeks to achieve.
What is clear from looking at those previous cases is that there is a wide discrepancy in how BB guns, pellet guns, paintball guns, and the like are treated in terms of licensing versus how they are treated in terms of storage and transportation under both the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.
It seems to me that the original intent of Parliament was to treat these types of guns differently under the act, as evidenced by the fact that you do not require a licence to purchase, own, or use low-velocity BB guns. Consequently, I do not believe that it was Parliament's intention to make it a criminal offence to transport or store BB guns or pellet guns differently, but that is what appears to have occurred under the law, which has resulted in the inconsistency of application we are facing.
It has been suggested that R. v. Dunn changed the game. It did not. In fact, it is clear in reviewing a summation of the case law by a crown prosecutor attached to the guns and gangs task force, that if anything, Dunn emphasized the discrepancy. I noted a moment ago the difference between how BB guns and pellet guns are treated in terms of licensing as opposed to how they are treated in terms of storage and transportation. Before this, no one contemplated the criminalization for storage or handling of an air gun until the Firearms Act, which is why we are here and why the bill is necessary.
Quite simply, bill seeks to create a mere exception so that lower velocity air guns will be treated the same under the Firearms Act for storage and transportation as they are for licensing. It deems that lower velocity air guns are not firearms for the purposes of those sections of the act and creates an exemption for individual storing or transporting of lower velocity air guns from the careless use offence under section 86 of the Criminal Code.
To achieve that, the bill would add a new subsection to subsection 84(3) of the Criminal Code to address the above. At the same time, the bill would exclude from subsection 86(2) of the Criminal Code the careless use, storage, and use requirements with respect to lower velocity air guns.
Currently this subsection creates an offence for contravention of storage and transportation regulations under the Firearms Act, despite the fact that paragraph 84(3)(d) of the Criminal Code already exempts lower velocity air guns from the provisions of the Firearms Act and its regulations, including those related to storage and transportation. In our view, this ambiguity needs to be addressed.
During debate there was concern expressed that the provisions of this bill would weaken the law regarding the storage and transportation of air guns and thus increase the risk to public safety. If we felt this to be true, I would not be sitting before you today. If we were dealing with issues around the transportation and storage of firearms that discharge a projectile, using powder and an ignition source, this story would be different. Instead, we are talking about lower velocity air guns that use compressed air from a canister or a CO2 cartridge.
In essence, the issue at hand is that through cases like Dunn, which changed nothing, the courts have highlighted a discrepancy between the previous definition of a firearm and what the courts now consider to be one. This bill clarifies that lower velocity BB and pellet guns are not, in fact, firearms and reinforces the law as it was before Dunn.
I am of an age and a cohort who grew up in a time when low-velocity BB guns and pellet guns were the norm. They were the first gun you had as a youth for plinking at cans on a fence or shooting at paper targets with friends. In my case, and in the case of millions of Canadians, they were a part of growing up and an introduction to a lifetime involvement with firearms. Our parents counselled us about the proper use of these guns and tolerated, in my case in particular, no nonsense if you were caught being careless with them. At the same time, there was never a thought that they posed a risk to the public safety requiring them to be locked in cabinets and transported like high-powered firearms or that a failure to do so should be subject to a Criminal Code charge.
Let me be clear: the OFAH takes the issue of firearm safety very seriously. We deliver the Ontario hunter education program on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, which has taught over 250,000 students in the last decade.
Most of our instructors, which number about 302 currently, also deliver the Canadian firearms safety course. We work closely with the Ontario Chief Firearms Officer and the OPP on campaigns and messaging about safe use, safe storage, and safe transportation of firearms. I have provided the clerk with an example of that, which the committee can deal with as they see fit.
There is no question that, like any gun, low-velocity BB guns and pellet guns should be used responsibly. However, in our view, they do not require regulation in terms of storage and transportation as other firearms do, and owners of these guns should not be subject to Criminal Code charges associated with storage and transportation of them, which is why we support this bill and commend for coming forward to address an inconsistency that exists in the law.
Thank you once again, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for affording me this opportunity.
Thank you to the committee for giving me this opportunity to speak to Bill .
I'll give you just a little background. My name is Todd Brown. I have been doing in-depth research on the Firearms Act. I have written over a dozen articles and reviews on current and proposed gun legislation. I have maintained a gun group, which is the Concerned Gun Owners of Alberta, for several years. I am the executive director for FIRE, the Firearms Institute for Rational Education. I have been a firearms instructor and hunter training instructor for over 10 years. I'm in a position to listen to and discuss issues with gun owners as well as to inform them regarding gun legislation.
I will be short and concise as I wish to make only two points.
Bill would cover the oversight in the regulations that put innocent people, businesses, and kids at risk of criminal charges for the use and sale of BB, pellet, and paintball guns. Unless that changes, the legal door will be open to charge store owners for displaying legal merchandise and kids for using or storing BB or paintball guns.
While I support Bill in principle, I would respectfully suggest that to further simplify the legislation, the following change be implemented to replace the addition suggested by this bill. The change is that section 84 of the Criminal Code be amended by replacing subsection (3) with the following: “(3) For the purposes of sections 86, 91 to 95, 99 to 101, 103 to 107 and 117.03 of this act and the provisions of the Firearms Act, the following weapons are deemed not to be firearms”.
As you see, all that needs to be done is to add section 86 to the list of sections that section 84 of the Criminal Code will affect.
My second point is that in my time as a firearms instructor, I have also wondered why my teaching kit of disabled guns was still subject to the regulations of safe storage and transportation when they do not meet the definition of a firearm. No teaching guns are capable of discharging a projectile in any manner and as such should be deemed not to be firearms. An addition to subsection 84(3) of this nature would be well received by all instructors across Canada since it would make it easier to transport and store teaching tools while decreasing the amount of paperwork, which should not apply to a disabled firearm. A disabled firearm is no more than a fancy paperweight, and this change would have no negative effects on public safety.
In conclusion, those items that do not meet the definition of a firearm should not be subject to the same legal sanctions as those that do meet the definition of a firearm.
I thank the committee for their time and their consideration of my comments.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I would also like to thank Mr. Farrant and Mr. Brown for joining us today to discuss Bill .
My first questions will be about a concern of mine, a concern shared by a number of police officers with whom I have discussed the bill. It deals with the impact it could have on their work.
It is sometimes very difficult to distinguish an air gun from a regular gun. I have several air guns myself, including one that looks very much like a rifle equipped with a big telescope. From a distance, someone unfamiliar with rifles could well think it was a regular one.
I have discussed the change the bill proposes in this regard with a number of police officers. It is one of their concerns. It will certainly make their work more difficult because they will now have to distinguish between an air gun and a regular firearm. In their opinion, that could make their working conditions more dangerous, depending on the confrontations that might arise and the situations that police services may have to deal with.
My first question goes to Mr. Farrant.
Have you discussed this with any police officers? Do you understand their concern and, specifically, what do you think about it?
Thank you very much for the question. I appreciate it.
I have not discussed it with police officers; however, we did have a meeting last week with the Chief Firearms Officer of Ontario at her offices to discuss a number of issues. This was one that was on the table and there was no particular concern expressed on the part of the CFO, who is also an OPP superintendent on the force currently. There was certainly nothing expressed in concern with that.
I appreciate what you're saying, but if this change is made, police officers still have the ability to stop someone and to check a firearm. This is not about replica firearms. We're talking about a firearm that already is exempt under one section of law and not exempt under another section of law, which is confusing, quite frankly.
When you have the Criminal Code say one thing and the Firearms Act say another thing, there's no consistency there for firearms owners or for police or for anyone. Mr. Brown has indicated that there may be charges inadvertently laid in the current circumstances.
We certainly appreciate the fact that police officers have a difficult job to do. I don't think that this bill does anything to cause any further increase in public safety issues or threats to police officers. They still have the right to stop and check firearms, etc., as they would with any firearm.
But we live in a very litigious society right now and I can certainly see if the law is not changed more litigation being brought forward against people who are possessing these air guns, the low-velocity ones we're talking about, who could be subject to litigation because of the confusion in the law. We've seen a number of cases where that has been true.
I think there is a concern there to try to clear up.... Any time you can clear up the law and make it more definitive and more succinct, I think it's a good thing.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and through you, thank you to the witnesses for appearing today.
Thank you for mentioning the need to make firearms regulations more simple so that the average person who owns a firearm, or even a pellet gun, or a BB gun, can rationalize its use. I'll be asking another witness a different question, based on my grandkids, but let's get around to some of the testimony that was given and to some of the questions asked at our last meeting.
You mentioned in your opening statement that the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters delivers a hunters safety course on behalf of the Province of Ontario. I guess it would be more appropriate, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, to say that it's in collaboration with the Province of Ontario, based on a curriculum that you both have agreed to. You also mentioned that you give the firearms safety course in conjunction with the federal regulations.
Would it be correct to say, with regard to the 100,000-odd members of your organization, that you speak on their behalf, and that the credibility of your voice would be representative of most hunting and fishing organizations throughout Canada, with whom you converse on a regular basis, from coast to coast to coast? In your opinion, would you say that most would be agreeable not only to this bill but to the opinions you've expressed here?
Thank you for mentioning that, because that was actually going to be my next question.
To your knowledge, based on the fact that you are intimately involved with hunting and fishing, not only in the Province of Ontario but across this great country of ours, would you say that some folks wouldn't realize that, if this legislation does not go through, some—and I will say so publicly—overzealous police officer who goes into a house and sees a BB gun in the corner might look at the Criminal Code and say, “My goodness, there is a charge here”?
Most police officers wouldn't lay a charge unless there were some other indications, something very serious in conjunction, but would you agree that if we leave the Criminal Code and firearms regulations in such a complicated way, because of a whole mishmash of different people who think they are doing good things, the majority of those folks who want to engage in a lawful, peaceful, and healthy pastime could end up being on the wrong end of the law?
That's correct. I'll speak to a couple of things there.
Most police officers, the vast majority of them, do their job very well and do it as they understand it. Until this bill came forward, I admit quite candidly, I did not realize that this loophole existed, and I deal with firearms on a daily basis and have done so for 15 years at OFAH.
We find, however, on a consistent basis, that police officers across this country do not necessarily understand the Firearms Act and what safe storage and transportation are all about. There are repeated cases that occur all the time, every day, somewhere in this country, where a police officer stops somebody and lays a charge of unsafe transportation of a firearm, when in fact the person with the firearm is adhering to the law and it is the officer who doesn't understand what the Firearms Act means in terms of safe transportation. That is a problem now, and unless this is fixed, it is certainly a problem for a whole range of other people.
Thank you, Mr. Easter, for the questions.
The courts in previous judgements have said that a firearm becomes a weapon only if it is used, or intended to be used, to cause death or to threaten or intimidate a person. If somebody is using a firearm, regardless of what type of firearm, for that purpose, they should still be subject to the law and charges under the law that are appropriate.
We are talking here in this context about people who innocently are going about their business with low-velocity firearms or guns where you don't even classify it as a firearm. In fact, Dunn says that pellet guns that fire under the standard that's been established have never met the definition of a firearm because they are incapable of causing serious injury or death to a person. They have further suggested that neither storage regulations made under the Firearms Act or the Criminal Code firearms offence provisions apply to them.
Far be it from me to correct a court, but subsection 86(2) creates an offence for the contravention of storage and transportation regulations made under the Firearms Act. However, paragraph 84(3)(d) of the Criminal Code exempts lower velocity firearms from the provisions of the Firearms Act and its regulations, including those relating to storage and transportation. On one hand the court is saying one thing, and on the other hand the law is saying something different.
I think this bill serves the purpose of identifying there is an inconsistency in the law. I do not believe that in any way, shape, or form changing this legislation, approving the bill and making the change to the Criminal Code as proposed will in any way, or shape, or form threaten the public safety any more than what we currently exist under.
In my constituency of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, there are a lot of hunters and anglers. So I am quite sensitive to their concerns. The head office of the Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs is located in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, which is also in my constituency. So I am very familiar with the issues.
Mr. Farrant and yourself said that the bill we are studying would have a preventive effect, but that it does not seem to tackle the real issue. That is what I understand from your comments. Moreover, the Canadian Police Association mentioned that the number of actual convictions, not the number of charges brought to court, is very low, less than 10, actually. I am still new to this committee and I am trying to understand the need for this bill.
Gentlemen, I am going to bring up something else. You mentioned that businesses could be affected by the legislation. Do you know of any businesses that have financial difficulties because of the current legislation, that might have had things seized or other problems as a result of the current legislation?
Mr. Brown, you can answer first and Mr. Farrant can comment later.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here.
The argument today seems to be that the system appears to be working but that there's a possibility of abuse of the system, in other words, a possibility of charges. That's what the bill is about. That's kind of what I have in my mind as far as a summary of the argument is concerned.
The existing practice, as I understand it, is that air guns with a certain velocity, the ones we're talking about, are exempt from penalties in the Criminal Code for possession of a firearm without a valid licence or registration certificate. As we discussed, they're considered under the Criminal Code if they're used to commit a crime.
I'm just not clear in my mind in that they're part of the current practice, but they're not. The possession, acquisition, and use for lawful purposes are regulated more by provincial and municipal laws, but these arms are also exempt from specific safe storage. I don't understand. I have three rifles that are registered and locked up appropriately under the existing law. Mr. Farrant, do BB guns have to have the same storage now, or not?
There are many ways to respond to that.
First of all—and I don't know if this is the case here; I'm only citing a previous example, so please understand that—when we talked about Bill to scrap the long-gun registry, there was a real division within the policing community across the country, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, as to who supported it and who didn't support it. The fact that the association says one thing does not mean it speaks for all of its members across the country, I want to be clear about that.
Second, the fact that there may have been relatively few charges laid to date under this does not make it right, and if there's any opportunity to clear up ambiguities in the law, I think it behooves us to take that opportunity to make it clearer. It also helps police officers do their job when the law is clearer. Right now, as I said during my comments, it's as clear as mud. People could inadvertently be charged, and we've seen cases where they have been, and have had to go through the proceedings under the current system, as it stands.
As for police officers having difficulty, and this goes back to an earlier question, identifying replica guns, or guns which look like something that they're not, police officers, as Mr. Brown has indicated, have the ability to stop anybody at any time to identify a firearm and what has been going on with the firearm, what use it has, what type it is, etc. Nothing changes here because of this.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the SECU committee.
I'm Tony Bernardo, the executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association. I have been asked to testify to this committee with regard to the technical aspects of this bill. I also wish to provide some background information regarding the development of this situation with air guns in Canada.
The current laws and regulations that Canada has regarding air guns came as a result of an RCMP firearms lab program that was trying to circumvent previous regulations in order to further restrict the possession of air guns. The firearms lab had been taking air guns of the type purchased at Canadian Tire stores, and had been firing ultralight pellets from these air guns, chronographing the velocity of the ultralight pellets. When it was determined that the velocity exceeded 495 feet per second, they were classifying ordinary air guns as real firearms and demanding that they be registered.
Needless to say, with hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of these very ordinary BB guns in the public domain, the Liberal government of the day was extremely concerned that Canadians would find themselves in criminality over the purchase of a common BB gun. The minister of justice at that time, the Honourable Anne McLellan, decided to form the original firearms experts technical committee. This committee was given the mandate to develop new air gun laws that would prevent the RCMP from continuing down the path of criminalizing ordinary Canadians.
The makeup of the committee was wide and diverse and included members of the firearms community, activist groups, and the RCMP, among others. Over the course of several months, the committee met a number of times to discuss how best to keep Canadians safe without unduly restricting freedom or criminalizing ordinary people. I was privileged to be on that committee and to serve Minister McLellan in that regard.
After months of work, the committee recommended that the current air gun laws be changed from a simple 495 feet per second ceiling to a slightly more complicated 495 feet per second with a newly introduced energy component of 5.7 joules of kinetic energy. Because kinetic energy is a measure of mass times velocity squared, the use of ultralight projectiles in BB guns would not exceed the energy requirement even though the tested velocity might be over 495 feet per second. This is a very important point, and I will return to it later in this presentation.
Of particular interest to this committee might be the issue of why this law is so needed. Air guns found themselves in the crosshairs of the Supreme Court of Canada as a result of the so-called pig's eye test. The pig's eye test began to be introduced several years ago as court evidence by zealous crowns bent on obtaining Criminal Code convictions against individuals who had committed certain offences with air guns.
Related to this is the Criminal Code definition of “firearm”. Section 2 states:
“firearm” means a barrelled weapon from which any shot, bullet or other projectile can be discharged and that is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death to a person....
The pig's eye test is based on a postwar military study that demonstrated that a velocity of 214 feet per second was necessary to incapacitate a person. This was done by firing military projectiles—not BBs—into the eyes of dead pigs. However, velocity does not tell the whole story. As illustrated in the first part of this presentation, it was recognized that velocity alone is not sufficient to seriously injure a person. A speck of dust at 214 feet per second will make a person's eye water. A bowling ball at the same speed would easily kill someone.
This was recognized by Minister McLellan's committee and was incorporated into Canada's air gun laws.
As well, there has been no demonstrated correlation between a pig's eye and a human's eye. We know that an octopus' eye is different from a sparrow's eye, which is different from an alligator's eye, but there has never been a medical correlation that I'm aware of between a pig's eye and a person's eye.
Why is this important? Because the Criminal Code says “serious bodily injury...to a person”, not to a pig. If one is to accept the premise that these are interchangeable, it must be clearly established that the two are the same.
The third point regarding this test is that there is no legal opinion I'm aware of that states that losing an eye constitutes serious injury. I'm sure we can all agree that it would almost certainly be very painful and would bring out a huge squeamish factor in most of us, but since the beginning of mankind, people have been losing eyes in accidents and they go on to live perfectly normal lives.
Once again, I'm not suggesting that damaging an eye is not a serious matter. It certainly may be. I'm simply stating there is no legal evidence to establish this and that such a thing becomes necessary when a Criminal Code conviction hangs in the balance.
The point of all this information is that Canada's air gun laws were developed based on the results of committee recommendations from a group of experts appointed by the former Chrétien government. Minister McLellan was satisfied that the recommended changes to the old regulations on air guns were both evidence-based and satisfied public safety requirements. Indeed, we've been using these regulations since that time and there has been no lack of safety surrounding Canada's air gun laws.
Bill would not restore the former government's status quo of BB guns as non-firearms, but only speaks to the transportation and storage regulations. A kid with a BB gun could still be charged with firearms offences in certain circumstances, and myriad other very serious Criminal Code offences. The decades-old warning about being careful with your Red Ryder BB gun certainly pales against the spectre of being run through Canada's legal system. Even with the successful passage of this bill, all that would revert to the previous legislation is storage and transportation of these BB guns.
Air guns are the primary trainers of the firearms world. Many generations of novice shooters have learned the skills of marksmanship and the responsibilities of safe gun handling through the use of pellet and BB guns, and many more will. The air gun is a marvellous training tool to teach with. Air guns are quiet, safe, and very accurate. That the Supreme Court chose to circumvent the clearly stated will of Parliament is disappointing to the tens of thousands of Canadians I represent. These lawful, trustworthy citizens of this great country now look to you to make this right again.
It is the position of the CSSA that we support this bill. We would like to see it expanded to fully return to the old status of air guns enjoyed by Canadians for so many decades. Air guns are not firearms. They do not have the reach, lethality, or potential of real firearms. Those air guns that do possess those characteristics of real firearms were already regulated adequately within Canada's legal framework. BB guns should not be treated as firearms. I think all of us intuitively recognize the wisdom of this, and we look to our Parliament to make this right again.
Thank you for your time and consideration on this now.
It's pretty short. I want to say hi to Mr. Bernardo. He and I were co-presenters the last time I was here. We have to stop meeting like this.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Dr. Katherine Austin: Today I'm representing the Canadian Paediatric Society. I have a PowerPoint presentation, and you have it on paper.
We are a national professional association that represent 2,000 pediatricians, and we advocate for the health needs of children and youth. I'm really proud of the CPS. It's a wonderful organization that always puts kids' interests first. We have published a position paper on firearms and youth and safety. In fact, we have been doing that for the last 20 years. We have a lot of interest in this area. We're very grateful to you for inviting us to come today and share our expertise and recommendations on the subject of Bill , which I just learned about on Monday. It's been quite a week for me, immersing myself in the details of this bill.
I will start by going to the first slide. The modern day air guns and BB guns are very different from the products that were out in the 1950s and 1960s. These have the ability to cause serious internal injury and death. Mr. Bernardo and I are going to have to totally disagree on this subject.
The Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology published a study in which they reviewed all the accidents that occurred in the Ottawa area over a period of 20 years that resulted in someone losing an eye. The medical term for having to have your eye taken out because it's been so badly damaged is enucleation. Of all of those accidents they studied over a 20-year period, air guns and BB guns were the leading cause of enucleation.
I couldn't disagree more with Mr. Bernardo about the fact that losing an eye is not in the category of serious bodily injury. Imagine your child losing an eye. It's permanent. It's disfiguring. It affects your vision and your balance. It's a terrible issue. It's not as bad as dying, but it's one of the worst things that could happen to you, short of dying.
Permanent blindness is not the only problem that air guns and BB guns can cause. I'll have you look at the next slide. The present day non-powder firearms can cause skin penetration. They can cause eye penetration. In a number of cases, deaths from air guns and BB guns have been reported. The deaths occur secondary to brain trauma. The BB has penetrated inside the head and caused so much brain trauma to cause death. We also see brain trauma, neck trauma, penetration of the chest to the heart and lungs, and penetration of the abdomen.
This new generation of air guns and BB guns is so powerful that when we make recommendations to physicians who are treating these injuries, now we say that if someone has received an injury from an air gun or a BB gun, it should be treated like a regular firearms injury. The person needs to have MRIs and CTs, and all of the kind of observation that you would expect because there may be serious internal injury.
A lot of time and effort has been expended, and I've had a crash course this week to understand the meaning of the different categories of velocity that the projectiles are shot out at. I don't know if the committee feels they are expert on this issue, but I want to share with you what I have learned about the velocities.
For guns that shoot a projectile with a velocity of greater than 500 feet per second, and that would be 152 metres per second for those of you who are thinking in metres, those are required to be licensed and registered. A gun like that is highly likely to cause serious injury and death.
The next category is the category that this bill is most importantly affecting. These are guns that shoot a projectile with a velocity between 246 and 500 feet per second. That velocity is plenty to cause eye penetration, skin penetration, serious injury and death. The researchers who spent a lot of time shooting at things in laboratories felt that for guns that shot projectiles with a velocity of under 246 feet per second there was a lower risk of skin penetration and eye penetration, although it's not zero. In fact, the level at which there was no eye penetration in the laboratory was 214 feet per second, or 65 metres per second.
For the purposes of the bill that we're dealing with, these would be the three categories we would need to understand. The top category would be those firearms that need to be licensed and registered. The middle category do not need to be licensed and registered, yet they still shoot projectiles at a very high velocity and are capable of causing severe injury. The bottom category would be those which are much less likely to cause serious injury.
I want you to see this picture. I got this from the Canadian Tire website. This is the Crosman TR77NPS rifle. It's projectile velocity is 495 feet per second. Remember the categories. At 500, it would have to be licensed. It's just a few feet per second below that cut-off, which would put it into a full firearm category.
This air gun is capable of causing severe injury and death; in fact, I would say more than capable—likely. There is very little difference in terms of the damage potential of this kind of weapon and what we would consider a regular firearm. Under our current Criminal Code of Canada, this gun is considered to have the potential to cause serious bodily harm, and that is rightly so. The current law allows for criminal penalties for a person who displays extreme disregard for safety in storing or handling this kind of gun.
For example, if a person left a loaded Crosman rifle on a bench in a playground near a bunch of children, that would be considered a criminal act. That's how the law is right now. That person would be liable for criminal charges. Subsection 86(1) is the subsection under which that would be the case: a person who commits an offence without a lawful excuse “in a careless manner or without reasonable precautions for the safety of other persons”.
Unfortunately, Bill specifically excludes the guns in that medium-velocity category, like the Crosman rifle. It specifically excludes those guns from this subsection. For all those guns that are very dangerous and shoot at a very high velocity, now there would be no criminal charges, no criminal liability or responsibility for a person who committed a really egregious act with a firearm like that.
Sorry about the next slide. The next slide is just Bill , and I'm sure you are all very familiar with it. The point is that for the purposes of section 86, if the firearm shoots a projectile at under 152 metres per second, or 500 feet per second, it is specifically excluded from this subsection. Needless to say, the Canadian Paediatric Society is vehemently opposed to this change. There should definitely be criminal responsibility for someone who shows extreme disregard for the safety of the public when handling a highly dangerous weapon.
The last slide shows our recommendations.
We would strongly recommend that air guns and BB guns, the projectile velocity of which is great enough to cause eye or skin penetration, should be classified as firearms under the Criminal Code for the purposes of storage and transportation, specifically under subsection 86(1). Our opinion is that this should include all air and BB guns with a projectile velocity greater than 214 feet per second. In that scenario, over 214 feet per second, the firearms would have the capability of eye penetration; under that speed, we would not expect it to.
The next recommendation has to do with the fact that one of the reasons this law is being proposed is that there really aren't clear guidelines for storage of air guns and BB guns.
I'm right, aren't I, Mr. Bernardo? There aren't any guidelines or requirements for storage of BB guns and air guns.
The following questions are primarily directed towards Dr. Austin.
Dr. Austin, I know there are records kept in hospitals with regard to injuries. Would I be correct to say—you're a pediatrician—that most of those injuries involving young people are fairly serious injuries such as knocking out of teeth, injured eyes, and concussions, which would be the result of games like hockey, baseball, being hit in the head with a bat, and a hockey puck in the mouth? I have a few teeth missing because of playing hockey when I was very young. Also, I wonder if there are statistics with regard to knives. I do know that with my grandchildren and me, one of the first weapons we were given as Boy Scouts and as hunters—we're hunters and fishers—was a knife.
Yet, as a pediatrician, I don't see you advocating for the registration of knives, baseball bats, or even Nerf guns. My grandkids, who are going to be visiting today to see grandpa near the end of his career as a politician, got some Nerf guns. I know for a fact that their mom and dad are explicit that they don't shoot near the eye, because if you use a Nerf gun and it hits the eye, it can cause an eye injury or, for sure, pain.
I wonder whether you would like to comment on that, as opposed to just firearms, because we're singling them out because they look bad: there's that firearm that you said really looks intimidating. I was a police officer for 30 years and there are replicas; there are plastic guns.
We had an incident where an intellectually challenged young man was sitting by the highway with a plastic gun and he didn't realize what was happening. Of course, police were dispatched and a very bad thing could have happened.
Why do we have to make criminals out of parents and young people because they put the BB gun under the bed or in a closet that wasn't locked?