Standard Capacity / Overcapacity Magazines
Friday, February 25, 2005
This is a complex area in the law -- far
more complex than it should be. It is very
difficult to believe that the Department of Justice does not
intend to confuse everyone, in the hope of persuading them to get them out of legal firearms ownership -- because legal
firearms ownership is too complex, too expensive and too risky.
Rifles and shotguns are outlawed in several ways. Let us look at each:
THE OVERCAPACITY MAGAZINE:
If the firearm is a centrefire rifle or shotgun, and has a magazine that takes more than 5 cartridges, the magazine, not the firearm, is a "prohibited device." For example, I have a Kolyer clip (an after-market product, not from the original manufacturer) that takes 8 cartridges (.30-06 or .270). It is designed to be used in the Remington 740 semi-automatic rifle (or closely related models; Remington produced several variants as it tried to cure the rifle's accuracy problems).
But -- It is also designed to be used in the Remington Model 760 pump action rifle (or closely related models; Remington produced several variants of this one too).
If that "overcapacity magazine" is viewed as "belonging" to a semi-automatic Model 740, it is a "prohibited device" [CC s. 84(1) "prohibited device" (d)], and I am eligible for 5 years in prison [CC s. 91(2)].
If that magazine is viewed as "belonging" to pump action Model 760, it is perfectly legal and I am not guilty of anything.
Which is it? I have no idea. I do not own either rifle, nor any rifle that magazine will fit into. I have showed it, at the NFA-CFC conference of 23-24 Jun 97, to the CFC. I have showed it to local police, and to the Alberta Chief Provincial Firearms Officer.
All refused to give me any opinion on what the status of that magazine is, and refused to try and seize it, arrest me for possession of a "prohibited device (it was a "prohibited weapon" question before 01 Dec 1998)," and charge me. If the law is that much of a mess, why is Ottawa making it worse, and refusing to consider any possibility of making it better?
There are many rifles and shotguns today that take magazines that wallow in this kind of limbo. Therefore, I am asking the CFC:
What is the status of my magazine? The firearms community is waiting for your answer. Quit handing out meaningless pap with your silly Bulletins -- Give us some USEFUL answers!
Where the magazine is over-capacity, that does not change the status of the rifle or shotgun. The rifle or shotgun must be considered in the light of the items below, separately.
SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLES AND SHOTGUNS "RESTRICTED" BY LAW:
If a centrefire semi-automatic rifle or shotgun has a barrel less than 18.5"/470mm long, it is a "restricted firearm" under current law [CC s. 84(1) "restricted firearm" (b)].
Muzzle brakes and flash hiders are not considered to be part of the barrel. That is a fundamental error on the part of the system, because some muzzle brakes and flash hiders are part of the barrel, not the screw-on or pin-on devices that the government "experts" think all muzzle brakes and flash hiders are.
SEMI-AUTO RIFLES AND SHOTGUNS "RESTRICTED" BY REGULATION:
When a semi-auto (or other) rifle or shotgun was put into the "restricted weapon" class by Order in Council in Kim Campbell's day, the wording was " the design commonly known as **************** and any variant or modified version thereof."
There was no indication of how far "variant or modified version" was intended to go, or where the dividing line between a firearm that is not a "variant or modified version" and one that is actually lies.
The NFA did an analysis -- using the sub-lists of guns considered to be "variants" or "modified versions" as found on the early Orders in Council. The results are interesting, and so confusing that virtually no efforts have ever been made to clear up the status of firearms not on the lists. That is also true of attempts to clear up the problem that the information listed is insufficient, in many cases, to tell which firearm is meant by the short name that is on the list.
For example, the 7.62X54R Dragunov is listed as a "variant or modified version" of the AK-47. If you think that is stretching the relationship, try this: Every Italian-made .22 rimfire recoil-operated blowback "lookalike" is classed as a "variant or modified version" of a Russian-made 7.62X39mm centrefire gas-operated locked-breech AK-47! How's that for stretching it?
It gets worse. The early lists of firearms converted some to "restricted weapon" status, and some to "prohibited weapon" status. Some of those firearms are variants of each other!
What rules apply when a "prohibited firearm" is a "variant or modified version" of a "restricted firearm" and it in turn is a "variant or modified version" of a non-restricted firearm? I have no idea, and no one in our witless Department of Justice can or will tell me.
You think I am overstating the case? No, I am not. A Mossberg .22 rimfire semi-auto rifle is unrestricted. A slightly modified (different magazine, different shoulder stock) Mossberg .22 rimfire semi-auto rifle was reclassified by OIC as a "restricted weapon." A slightly modified (different stock) variant of that rifle was reclassified by OIC as a "prohibited firearm."
All three are very close relatives -- they all use the SAME "frame or receiver" and the same trigger mechanism and the same operating parts. Obviously, they ARE all a "variant or modified version" of each other. They are all MUCH closer than the Italian firearms listed as being a "variant or modified version" of the AK-47.
If the chain of status runs one way, that one "prohibited weapon" on the list means that every .22 Mossberg semi-auto rifle in Canada is a "prohibited firearm."
If it runs the other way, one unrestricted Mossberg .22 semi-auto rifle lifts all the "restricted" and "prohibited" variants back into the unrestricted class.
Which way of looking at that situation is correct? Years after those Orders in Council came into force, no one knows.
SEMI-AUTO RIFLES AND SHOTGUNS THAT ARE "PROHIBITED"
Allan Rock updated Kim Campbell's lists of "restricted weapons," converting NEARLY all firearms on those lists into an even more confusing status. Any firearm made into a "restricted weapon" by Kim Campbell was again converted -- to "prohibited weapon" status -- by Rock.
Then they were converted to "prohibited firearm" status by Bill C-68.
Your Mossberg .22 rimfire semi-auto rifle is either unrestricted, restricted or prohibited -- and no one can tell you which.
Because the Rock and Campbell Orders in Council outlawed certain bolt-action rifles (including some single-shot rifles, and without any "grandfathering"), an excellent case can be made that every bolt action rifle and shotgun in Canada is now a "prohibited weapon." The relationship between any bolt-action rifle or shotgun and the "designs" that were outlawed -- along with "any variant or modified version" -- is, in many cases, closer than the relationship between the "design" and the listed "variant or modified version" that Kim and Allan specified.
The Department of Justice is characterized by arrogance, ignorance and incompetence. When the NFA requested, through the Access to Information Act, data on how firearms were chosen for Kim Campbell's lists (that later became Rock's lists), one of the things we received was hilariously funny.
Looking at their lists before our Access to Info data came in, no one could see any rational pattern at all. One of us speculated that they had gone through the Gun Digest and put tick marks next to every picture of a firearm that "looked nasty."
When the data arrived, it contained photocopies of pages from the Gun Digest, with an "X" next to every firearm that "looked nasty."
Wouldn't it be nice if our Department of Justice had a clue? If the Minister of Justice was competent? If the Liberal Party was not attacking the entire firearms community?