Olympic Gun Supplier Stops Imports on Concern Over Marking Rules

Canada’s new rules affecting gun imports, the so-called Firearms Marking Regulations, are already hurting businesses, consumers and the economy, and the policies haven’t even taken effect.

Nordic Marksman Inc., which supplies Canadian Olympic shooters, decided in late April to halt an order of about $1 million in precision rifles and gear from Germany on concern the shipment would arrive after the rules start on June 1 and lead to extra fees.

“I put a stop to it,” Brad Mills, the owner and president of Nova Scotia-based Nordic Marksman, said by telephone on May 10. “I’m a small business. I can’t risk tying up tens of thousands of dollars.”

Delayed shipments mean companies miss out on revenue, consumers miss out on gear, and the country misses out on transactions that contribute to economic growth. Target shooters and hunters from Canada and abroad spend billions of dollars across the country every year on goods and services ranging from guns, accessories and ammunition to travel, hotels and restaurants to range fees and hunting permits.

Importers in Turmoil

Nordic Marksman and other importers are in turmoil over how to comply with the Canadian regulations, written in 2004 for the UN Firearms Protocol against illegal trade and deferred until this year. Ellwood Epps Sporting Goods in Ontario said yesterday it has delayed many shipments.

The rules say guns that enter Canada as of June 1 must be marked with “Canada” or “CA” and the last two digits of the year of import, such as “CA-17.” They also say how, when and where the marks must be applied, but the text is confusing even to experts and doesn’t say how the regulations will be enforced or what the penalties will be for non-compliance.

“What does the government want us to do?” said Mills, an official supplier to Biathlon Canada. “We’ve got a waiting list of about 15 people waiting for a biathlon rifle that I can’t supply.”

Clarity Coming Soon?

“After repeated delays, the UN Firearms Marking Regulations are due to come into force on June 1, 2017,” Scott Bardsley, press secretary for Canada’s minister of public safety, said on May 11 by e-mail. “The federal government is aware of the concern on the matter with groups such as firearms manufacturers, businesses, organizations and the general public. We are committed to measures that help improve public safety and respect law-abiding gun owners. The government is fully engaged on this matter. We hope to be able to bring clarity to it in the very near future.”

Even if the rules are clarified before they take effect in two weeks, the new marks won’t stop traffickers from removing them or applying fakes. Companies are also worried that marking the guns will damage them.

“Would I take a $3,500 firearm and risk making a mistake and making a mess of the side of the receiver?” said Mills. “I’m not in the laser-engraving business.”

Imports Surge

Canada’s gun imports surged in the first three months of the year as companies stocked up to shield themselves from the regulations, which threaten to push the industry into a crisis. Almost every gun sold in Canada comes from abroad.

The Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association, the country’s main industry group, said in September that the regulations as written will cause “catastrophic damage” to thousands of small businesses. Importers will need to install $100,000 laser-engraving machines and overhaul their operations, the group said, something only larger companies can afford.

“I do not believe that at this late hour the Liberals can push this ahead, so I am gambling that it will at least be pushed out a year,” Terry Korth, the owner of Korth Group Ltd., one of Canada’s biggest gun importers, said yesterday by e-mail. “If not, we will utilize our existing laser to try and cover ourselves.”

‘No Clear Direction’

As importers and shooters brace for June 1, Nordic Marksman and its vendors are losing business, and tomorrow’s Olympians aren’t getting their rifles.

“There’s no clear direction about the markings, so what do I do?” Mills said. “Nobody seems to know what has to be done to satisfy the requirements.”

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