Feds launch studies of gun industry and environmental impact of lead bullets

OTTAWA – The federal government is launching an “in-depth” study of the country’s civilian firearms industry as part of a program to combat gun crime and weapons smuggling and trafficking.

A request for proposal seeking research bids was posted this week by Public Works.

The study, Characteristics of the Canadian Firearms Industry Supplying the Civilian Market, is to be completed by March 31, 2014.

Public Safety Canada wants up-to-date details on who is manufacturing civilian weapons, who’s selling them, who’s buying, who is exporting and importing and who works in the industry.

The research is also to examine “marketing approaches, prevalence and influence of the Internet on the import/export/domestic sales of firearms, estimate of volume and value of sales (and) market profitability,” among many other factors, including international comparisons.

The study falls under the Investments to Combat the Criminal Use of Firearms (ICCUF) program, a $10-million-a-year interdepartmental initiative that includes Public Safety, the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency and the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada.

The ICCUF was created in 2004 with a five-year mandate that was made permanent by the Conservatives in 2009.

“To have an informed, national enforcement strategy to address gun crime and trafficking of firearms, the government of Canada must first have co-ordinated and comprehensive national firearm intelligence-gathering and analysis,” according to Public Safety Canada’s website.

The government’s request for proposal was posted the same day the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear a Quebec bid to preserve the last of the federal long-gun registry data.

The Conservative government passed legislation in 2012 to destroy millions of gun registrations, a move that was opposed by police forces who said the information helped combat gun crime, including firearms smuggling and trafficking.

The destruction of data on more than five million firearms from all provinces and territories except Quebec was completed last autumn and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney says Ottawa will be pressing the Supreme Court to allow the job to be completed.

Tony Bernardo, spokesman for the Canadians Shooting Sports Association who also sits on the Conservative government’s firearms advisory committee, said the gun industry research study “looks like another make-work exercise.”

“This information is well known,” Bernardo said in an interview Friday. “In fact it’s been documented in several places already.”

Bernardo was even more dismissive of another federal study proposal that was posted this week.

Environment Canada is seeking bids for a contract worth up to $60,000 to study the use of lead bullets and shot and their impact on the environment and human health.

“In 1995, ammunitions were estimated to have contributed to releasing over 1,000 tonnes of lead in the Canadian environment; however regulations that entered into force in 1997 were expected to address half of these releases,” according to the Environment Canada tender.

Sport shooting groups dispute any environmental contamination, saying that long-standing shooting ranges show no sign of a lead problem.

Bernardo called the issue “complete nonsense.”

“This has been, quite honestly, a global move on the part of the anti-gun groups to try to do whatever they can to make it as difficult as possible,” for firearms enthusiasts, Bernardo charged.

“It’s been done all over the world. Canada is one of the last countries to suffer this onslaught.”

The decade-long Conservative fight to eliminate the long-gun registry made the party the champion of gun advocates. However, the relationship has become more complicated since the registry’s demise.

Firearms licences are still required, which is an ongoing irritant to some gun owners, licence fee waivers have been dropped and new rules on gun markings have upset the firearms lobby.

Some former Conservative supporters have said the government is turning its back on them.

“It’s too early to make a conclusion like that,” said Bernardo.

“I don’t necessarily see that one way or the other. Certainly this kind of (research) stuff I don’t believe is initiated by the political end of the government. This is bureaucratic stuff.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.