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Thursday , 1 October 2020

Bonnyville & Vermilion Gun Clubs change policy after federal gun ban

From left: All regular hunting rounds; a .223 calibre round, a lever action 30-30 rifle round, a lever action 45-70 round, and a 270 calibre round of ammunition.

Vermilion and Bonnyville gun clubs have issued new range policies surrounding AR firearms and law enforcement.

The changes came about following the aftermath of the federal firearms regulations issued May 1st.

As per new range policies at both ranges, members of law enforcement are only permitted to attend in civilian clothing.

The Vermilion Gun Club still allows the RCMP to book rental days, while the Bonnyville Shooting Sports Association no longer allows the use of AR firearms at any time.

“This is temporary, there is nothing written in stone yet. We just put a hold on things until the federal regulations are finalized because we don’t know what direction this is going to go,” said Jim Miller, BSSA president.

Dwyane Gorniak, Vermilion Gun Club (VGC) president, also ensured that the VGC’s goal is not to be in dispute with law enforcement, but having received several complaints surrounding the federal regulations, they opted for new range policies.

He said that people’s frustration grew when the federal regulations were put in place because they had obtained their firearms lawfully and all of a sudden were made to feel like criminals overnight.

He feels that there was no democracy involved in the gun prohibition.

“The RCMP have always rented training days from us. We know it’s not always the local or frontline law enforcement making the decisions but the bureaucracy,” said Gorniak.

“There is also a growing trend of clubs banning all law enforcement from their clubs. Nose Hills Gun Club out of Consort has been like that for years now. We did not want to do that. We believe in treating law enforcement like all civilians under civilian law.”

Miller said that all firearms owners that have a Restricted Possession and Acquisition License are scanned through RCMP computers every morning to make sure that they have not taken part in any criminal activity.

He said that following the new regulations, members of the public had firearms worth $5,000-$7,000 they suddenly couldn’t even take out of their house or enjoy at the range.

Members of the Vermilion Gun Club executive board on June 10.

Gorniak, is also a director for the National Firearms Association and said that since 1995 civilians have been limited to using center fire rifles with a maximum of five rounds and when using hand guns, they have been limited to using 10 rounds.

Members of the RCMP are allowed to use larger magazines.

“Recently a lot of people began to feel that if civilian members weren’t allowed to use prohibited firearms and larger magazines, why was law enforcement?” said Gorniak.

The Bonnyville Gun Range. Photo Credit: Caitlyn Bush

“Even for the non-shooting public–this affects everybody,” said Miller.

Miller argues that it helps the local economy.

For example, they hosted over 200 people during their last handgun shoot, who visit businesses in and around Bonnyville visiting businesses

Top: A Smith & Wesson i-Bolt .270 calibre rifle. Bottom: A Savage Axis .243 calibre rifle. Both firearms have a black, synthetic stock.

“We need to take the stigma of firearms away from people. There are many firearms owners in Alberta, and I do not fear walking the streets of Bonnyville, Cold, Lake or Vermilion. They’ve made such a mess of the firearms laws in Canada right now, and this legislation has failed public safety,” said Miller.

Gorniak noted that there are several misconceptions about the prohibited firearms themselves.

Of the newly prohibited firearms, most bothersome to Gorniak was the AR-15 because they are not fully automatic.

They were introduced over 60 years ago and they are semi-automatic meaning that a person has to pull the trigger every time.

He said that some people believe the ‘AR’ in AR-15 stands for assault rifle, but it does not – it stands for ArmaLite Rifle.

The newly prohibited firearms are not necessarily larger and sometimes use smaller ammunition than non-restricted firearms.

He also said that most modern hunting rifles come in black, synthetic stock and that it is more popular because it is a lighter weight.

“Daily the RCMP are adding to the list of prohibited firearms on the Firearms Reference Table. A lot of the ones on the list were regular shot guns that people used for hunting,” said Gorniak.

“AR-15s have been used as a common hunting rifle in North America for decades. The .223 calibre or the 5.56 millimetre ammunition that the AR-15 uses was commonly used in a Ruger Ranch Rifle throughout Saskatchewan and British Columbia for small to medium game. The Alberta government did not consider it lethal enough to be used for deer so it was only permitted for small game. The Ruger Ranch Rifle is now prohibited.”

The RCMP were unable to further comment before press time.

About Angela Mouly

Angela comes to Lakeland Connect Media from the Vermilion Voice newspaper where she spent the past four years reporting on community events. Her repertoire includes writing about history, politics, agriculture, sports, entertainment and art. She was the third place recipient of an AWNA General Excellence Award for “Best Front Page” during their 2016 Better Newspaper Competition. Angela has lived in rural Alberta all her life and in Vermilion for the past 15 years. She looks forward to continuing to serve and inform the Lakeland community by joining in people's many adventures and sharing their stories.