Group tasked to help with retail gun “buyback” feels like a political “pawn”

The federal government’s mandatory gun “buyback” program is now facing pushback from the association it contracted with for help retrieving firearms from Canadian retailers.

The Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association was tasked by the Trudeau government to help them in procuring these now prohibited firearms back from retailers, who’ve been saddled with unsellable inventory since the federal government’s order-in-council banning 1,500 types of guns in May 2020.

However, the CSAAA has found the Liberals’ knowledge of firearms limited in scope, adding further complexity to the already difficult task.

Banning “assault-style” guns doesn’t include any one particular model or even several, but instead refers to firearms often built by dealers and owners using any number of various components.

The Liberals initially granted amnesty to the owners of the firearms until spring 2022, but the period was later extended to October 2025 when the so-called buyback hadn’t yet materialized by the deadline.

As the end date of the government’s amnesty nears, pressure is mounting on the CSAAA to draft some kind of blueprint for retailers to meet the deadline. 

True North’s Andrew Lawton hosted CSAAA president Wes Winkel on The Andrew Lawton Show to discuss the situation he finds his organization in. 

The CSAAA is being pulled at both ends from both the Trudeau government and Canadian gun rights activists, he said.

“We’re in a real catch 22,” Winkel told Lawton on Tuesday. “These firearms are not saleable. They are very expensive to insure.”

Winkel said he’s opposed to the gun buyback but felt an obligation to help gun retailers make the best of a bad policy.

“We of course as an association and as business owners want nothing more for this law to be reversed and for us to just sell our inventory again but there is a reality that businesses have to deal with,” he added. “We tried to negotiate the best deal we could inside of a terrible situation.”

Lawton asked if the government has expressed any contrition for just how arbitrary this is and the continued problems it creates for firearms retailers in navigating the ever-moving goalposts regarding which models become prohibited.

“They have not,” replied Winkel, reiterating that much of the problem lies within the legislation. 

“You’re banning a style of firearm, so there’s no mechanical definition for what is prohibited. Therefore it’s an arbitrary decision by a panel of people, making it very difficult for us as an industry to know what is and what is not going to be prohibited.”

According to Winkel the problem of inconsistency is then kicked up the line to the manufacturers themselves who wind up abandoning the Canadian market as a result of its persistent uncertainty. 

“They give up on trying to design guns for the Canadian market,” he said. “It’s been extremely difficult, Canada has been a very frustrating thing for our manufacturers and a lot of them have just given up and turned their back on us as a country because they don’t know how to participate in our market anymore.”

Winkel said that the 2020 order-in-council brought in by then-Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair was a knee-jerk response and that both retailers and government bureaucrats are continuing to pay the price of having to clean up this messy legislation. 

“I actually feel for the bureaucrats in the system that are trying to navigate it afterwards because they get thrown a terrible file and they say, ‘clean this up.’ And it really isn’t that easy to clean up,” he said.

Lawton asked Winkel what political elements were at play in regards to the extended amnesty ending just after the next federal election date, scheduled for Oct. 25, 2025.

While Winkel expects the buyback program will have dealt with the retailers by that point, he thinks that the issue of private citizens who already own the now prohibited models will be an election issue. 

“That is a way more convoluted process in a country as rural as Canada. I don’t believe that process gets going in that time. I think that’s why you see the amnesty getting pushed out past the election,” said Winkel. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this will probably be an election issue.”

“It’s all political posturing, that’s all it is, we know that as an industry. We’ve been a pawn in the politics game for a long time and it’s frustrating for those of us in business trying to keep people employed and trying to make a living,” said Winkel.The federal government confirmed that it had already spent nearly $42 million in taxpayer funds on the program since first introducing it in 2020, without yet acquiring a single firearm.

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