OFAH Rejects Gun-Confiscation Order as ‘Harmful,’ ‘Unacceptable’

Exclusive Q&A with OFAH’s Matt DeMille and PDF of his letter to Minister Bill Blair.

29 May 2020

6 min read

TheGunBlog.ca — The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, one of Canada’s largest hunting groups, rejected the federal government’s order for mass gun confiscations, saying the “harmful regulations” are “unacceptable.”


Contents

  • OFAH letter overview and why it matters
  • Excerpts of letter
  • Q&A With Matt DeMille
  • PDF of letter

Repeal and Replace

In a letter yesterday to Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair, the group urged him to repeal and replace the May 1 cabinet decree, which threatens federally licensed gun owners with jail unless they surrender their newly prohibited gear within two years.

‘Unacceptable’

“As stated multiple times in this letter, the OFAH cannot support the amended regulations in whole or in part,” Matt DeMille, the OFAH’s manager of fish and wildlife services, said in the letter. “The outcome of the amended regulations is unacceptable.”

Why It Matters

The opposition by a group with 100,000 members and backers makes it one of the most-powerful challenges to the governing Liberal Party’s undemocratic assault against honest citizens.

Comprehensive Critique

The OFAH supported the government’s stated aim of safety, and criticized almost every aspect of the confiscation Order in Council, from its “misleading narrative” to its misuse of Canada’s regulatory framework to confusion over which shotgun owners are targeted by the ban.

‘Doesn’t Make Sense’

“We are not saying that we are for or against this government, the governing political party, or even a type of firearm,” DeMille told TheGunBlog.ca today. “We are saying that we don’t agree with this because the policy doesn’t make sense.”

‘Serious Anxiety’

Civil-liberties advocates say the sweeping and sudden attack, which was drafted in secret with the federal police, violates fundamental principles of ethics, justice, the rule of law and parliamentary democracy.

Legal uncertainty and conflicting claims around the ban order have created “serious anxiety within the hunting community,” the OFAH letter said.

Excerpts of OFAH Letter to Bill Blair

Following are selected excerpts of the 12-page, 8,000-word letter.

The full analysis is on the OFAH website.

An Order in Council (OIC) may be a legal instrument to prescribe prohibitions, but it does not exempt the Government of Canada from the due diligence and rigour of the robust regulatory process that Canadians deserve.

The timing of these changes during a global pandemic and while Parliament is struggling to function, is being viewed as undemocratic by many.

The OFAH fully supports the government’s intent to prevent mass shootings and gun violence; however, we strongly oppose these amended regulations as the means to achieve the government’s stated objectives.

The amended regulations are flawed policies that should not have been implemented.

The outcome of the amended regulations is unacceptable. The OFAH is urging the government to take immediate steps to minimize the damage of these harmful regulations by repealing them and replacing them with a measured policy response that is evidence-based and will have maximum enhancements to public safety with minimum impact on responsible firearms owners.

Source: OFAH, Letter to Minister Bill Blair (Excerpts), 28 May 2020

Q&A With OFAH’s Matt DeMille

Following are comments by DeMille. He spoke with TheGunBlog.ca today by telephone.

On the reasons for rejecting May 1 confiscation order:

We don’t oppose the OIC because it’s banning firearms, we oppose the OIC because of the way it was done, and what it means for firearms owners.

The only way to do that is through a detailed analysis that questions the value of the policy and undermines the narrative that rationalizes it.

We’re saying, “If you do this without adequate consultation and legitimate rationalization, regardless of how noble your intent is, it’s unacceptable.”

We all want to protect public safety. At the end of the day, the policy that was implemented on May 1 through the amended regulations won’t.

 

On longer-term effects of the confiscation order:

The things that scare me the most are the things that are uncertain and the lingering effects on the firearm industry.

We’re going to see industry having lingering effects over costs, shipments, not getting firearms in time for the hunting season, and so on.

All these effects are really important, and really hard to measure right now.

These are the things that will affect the broader firearms community, but many won’t realize it until it hits home in some way.

 

On OFAH’s approach for policy analysis in general:

We don’t take a position on a model or a make of firearm.

This is what we do: We deconstruct policy on behalf of the hunting and fishing communities and take the same approach whether it is fisheries or firearms.

We strip it down and look at the policy to show the government, the firearms community and the public what the implications are of the regulations, regardless of the intent of those regulations.

This is what it means to do an evidence-based analysis that gets beyond the rhetoric to show the true impacts of policy.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a hunter who has a firearm for a single, specific purpose, say a single-shot break-open, or someone who does recreational shooting.

Whatever your interest, whatever your equipment, we break it down to the policy level and the implications of it to show where everyone has a potential stake in this conversation.

Our goal is clear, open, transparent policy that respects the firearms community.

 

On government funding and relation to advocacy:

The OFAH receives money from provincial and federal governments, usually through our conservation and education programs. In most cases they are OFAH-administered programs, and support things like summer-jobs for students or helping to keep Asian carp out of Canada.

Our advocacy and policy work is in no way connected to government funding. The funding has zero influence on anything we do from an advocacy perspective.

For example, we have a 28-year-old partnership with Ontario on invasive species, and during that time we disagreed with the government on many things, including in court on the spring bear hunt.

 

On diversity in the shooting community:

We have a lot of different opinions and perspectives, and they’re polarizing views.

We have to find a way to reconcile those views, knowing it won’t be perfect, and still do our advocacy on behalf of firearms owners in general.

This is the inherent challenge of firearm policy. There’s no perfect alignment about how we should be moving forward at different levels, with huge differences of opinion.

 

On influencing people:

Advocacy is not about convincing ourselves that we are right.

We need to influence the court of public opinion, and what a lot of people don’t realize is that we need to influence the court of public opinion within the firearms community, as well as the general public outside the firearms community.

Right now we are losing the public narrative battle on firearms.

We see the public buying into an anti-gun narrative on firearms and the only way to influence them is to change their minds.

A position of simply opposing the government or their actions is expected from the firearms community.

The public isn’t surprised that firearms advocates would be opposed to government firearms bans, making it easy for them to dismiss legitimate concerns.

We need to give them well reasoned and articulated facts that they can believe in. This may not turn an opponent into a supporter, but public skepticism of the firearms narrative will go a long way to turning this conversation around.

 

On court challenges of the May 1 confiscation order:

There are several court challenges going on.

They’re focusing on different aspects, whether it’s industry, or the regulations, or democracy, or rights.

All those approaches make sense to the people making them based on their mandates and their memberships.

We don’t need to look for The One Best Tactic and criticize all the others. We can have, and need, a diversity of views and tactics within the broader community to achieve our collective ultimate goals.

 

On OFAH’s involvement in any court challenges:

The OFAH is not involved in any court challenges at the moment.

We plan to continue to try to influence this dialogue and public policy through other means that make sense for our membership and mandate.

We believe our efforts and organizational strengths are best put to use in ways outside the courtroom, but it all works towards chipping away at this issue.

 

On responses to the May 1 confiscation order:

Most people haven’t reacted to the specifics that are in the regulations. Most of the dialogue is happening at the headline.

We’re struggling with a dialogue that isn’t about what the government has done, it’s about what the government has said it has done.

People don’t know what is happening or what the true implications are or could be.

There’s a huge separation in opinions on where to start the conversation.

You see people on social media saying, “I support the government getting rid of machine guns.” Where do you even begin a conversation with that? That hasn’t been a policy discussion since 1977.

 

On the role of OFAH’s letter in broader advocacy work:

The letter is only what you see. There’s a lot of work that goes on that most people don’t see

 The letter is a statement of position for government, firearms owners, and the public to see the serious concerns we have with these regulations.

Contrary to what some people believe, the letter wasn’t the beginning. It isn’t nearly the end of what we need to do to turn this dialogue around either.

PDF of OFAH Letter

Blair-401-450-may28-20

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