Gang members will have fewer options to buy, transport or possess real and imitation firearms under new legislation devised to make British Columbia’s streets safer.
“We are putting expert advice into practice to reduce shootings related to gangs and the drug trade. These new measures targeting illegal and imitation firearms will give police additional tools and help make our communities safer,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “At the same time, we recognize most firearm owners in B.C. are law abiding. As such, these changes should have little to no impact on them.”
If passed, the Firearm Violence Prevention Act (Bill 4) will implement recommendations from the Illegal Firearms Task Force to:
- penalize drivers who transport illegal firearms;
- authorize the impoundment of vehicles used to transport illegal firearms or flee police;
- prohibit people from having real or imitation firearms in specific locations, like schools and hospitals, where they have no legitimate purpose. These restrictions will complement existing laws concerning firearm possession, use, handling and storage;
- stop the sale of imitation and low-velocity guns to youth and make it illegal for youth to fire or display these weapons anywhere a provincial, federal, First Nations or municipal law prohibits discharging firearms;
- curtail gang members’ use of shooting ranges and strengthen user-related record keeping; and
- protect from civil liability social workers and health professionals who, in good faith, breach client confidentiality by reporting information to police to prevent gun violence.
“These recommendations targeting illegal and imitation firearms will provide police with the necessary tools to advance investigations and combat gun violence in our communities,” said Dwayne McDonald, assistant commissioner, BC RCMP Criminal Operations - Federal, Investigative Services and Organized Crime. “Denying criminals access to these weapons, as well as further regulating armoured vehicles, body armour and aftermarket compartments, are key steps in enhancing public safety.”
Bill 4 will also strengthen existing laws concerning armoured vehicles, body armour and aftermarket compartments criminals typically install in their vehicles to hide and transport illegal firearms and drugs. The proposed legislation will allow government to collect fingerprints from people applying for armoured vehicle and body armour permits, to verify the results of criminal record checks. It will also prohibit installing aftermarket compartments.
- The Illegal Firearms Task Force report, released in 2017, provided recommendations to help government respond to the public threats posed by illegal firearms. All 37 recommendations covered a broad scope of initiatives in relation to provincial and federal governments, local communities and First Nations in B.C. Most have either been completed or have some ongoing work.
- Other ongoing efforts to suppress gang activity include strengthening co-ordination and information sharing across the justice sector, using laws and regulations in new ways to disrupt gang members’ movement and activities, and engaging communities, families and others to help keep young people out of gangs and help members exit gang life.
Illegal Firearms Task Force report: