The proposed scrapping of Canada's controversial long-gun registry will trigger an increase in sales, some gun-shop owners predict.
But other gun merchants say they aren't getting too fired up over the coming legislation, as Parliament won't vote until this fall on the bill to end what has become a widely despised agency.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has introduced a government bill that would no longer require owners to register shotguns, hunting rifles and other long-barrelled guns. A handgun ban will remain in effect.
"The long-gun sales will go up, because people won't be afraid of buying one or two," says Kelly Abram, owner of the Smoking Gun FX store in Coquitlam, B.C. "The fear factor should be gone."
|Bayne Stanley, Business Edge|
|Kelly Abram, owner of the Smoking Gun FX store in Coquitlam, B.C., says the |
The bill, which would amend the Firearms Act and Criminal Code, is part of a Conservative pre-election promise to disarm the controversial registry that has cost taxpayers more than $1 billion. It may have a difficult time hitting the target, however, because the Liberals and New Democrats are opposed to the bill and the Tories have a precarious minority government.
Abram says the registry deters people from taking gun-safety courses and applying for firearms licences and, in turn, purchasing long-barrelled guns.
The end of the long-gun registry will encourage parents to get their children involved in hunting, target-shooting and other gun-related sports, he adds.
Many gun-shop and firearms owners say the registry, which requires all long-guns to be registered instead of just owners, has been a waste of taxpayers' money, and penalized law-abiding citizens while doing nothing to reduce crime.
However, John Giovanni, owner of Giovanni's Guns in North York, says the registry has had no effect on his business.
But unlike some other shop owners, he is skeptical that the end of the registry will boost sales.
"We don't think it's a story yet," says Giovanni. "Nobody knows what's going to happen."
Elsewhere, shop owners are taking a wait-and-see approach until the Tory bill is passed into law.
"I'll believe it when I see it," says Bill Treleaven, owner of Calgary-based Things Military.
Treleaven says he has not sold a single long gun for which the owner is required to have a licence since the registry was introduced in 1995.
"I could see what was going to happen and I got out of it," he says.
He sells antique guns that do not require owners to have licences, or shop owners to have federal import permits. Even if the long-gun registry is terminated, he says he will have to "think seriously" about whether to get back into permit-based sales.
"Basically, I diversified and, for sure, I'm pretty cautious about getting back into the gun business," says Treleaven. "It's just an insane market. I learned a valuable lesson."
Treleaven started selling military collectibles 20 years ago at the age of 24 with only $600 in capital.
His Montreal-based supplier was selling a lot of guns, so he started selling them and his business took off.
He had two full-time employees, revenue of $500,000 per year and operated from a 6,500-sq.-ft. store. Now, he is the lone employee and sells from a 1,300-sq.-ft space in northeast Calgary.
"At the peak, we were selling four guns a day," says Treleaven. "There were guys buying old, antique guns and using them at the target range - and the gun registry killed that industry."
Today, the bulk of his business is based on ammunition sales, which still cause him headaches because most products must be imported from the U.S. and other countries, and shop owners require import permits while distributors must have export permits in their home countries.
In Regina, TNT Gunworks owner Darryl Schemenauer agrees the death of the registry is going to be good for business.
In business for 16 years, Schemenauer says the registry curbed his gun sales by 30 to 40 per cent.
"I don't think we'll recover all of it," he says. "But I think we're going to get at least 25 per cent."
He adds he expects participation in hunting and target-shooting to increase by a similar percentage.
But Russ Butler, co-owner of Calgary-based Wholesale Sports of Canada Ltd., which operates sporting goods stores in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Lethbridge, Alta., says the termination of the registry won't make a difference to his thriving operation.
"Business is actually better than ever. (The registry) hasn't really had an effect on sales at all," says Butler, echoing a comment from some other gun shop owners who, nonetheless, say they still look forward to its termination.
Butler estimates hunting rifles account for 40 per cent of all product sales.
With or without a registry, he says, his company will still be expanding - it's building a new corporate headquarters and a retail outlet in Deerfoot Meadows in Calgary and is constructing new stores that will phase out smaller outlets in Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
Butler, who started selling guns with his brother Brad from Larson's Rifle and Gun in Calgary in 1974, agrees with Smoking Gun FX's Abram that the termination of the registry will take away the fear of participating in gun-related sports.
But he questions whether the termination of the registry will lead to more participation in hunting and target shooting, because gun owners will still have to sign up for courses and apply for permits.
If the registry is scrapped, Abram says, his store will be able to sell more ammunition and accessories like hunting-rifle scopes.
Hunting numbers have gone down, he adds, because fewer hunters wanted to register their guns.
Abram inherited his interest in guns. His father and grandfather were both gun enthusiasts. He started selling guns in a shop owned by a friend of his father, and opened his own business about 15 years ago.
He says he can "make a living" selling guns, but suggests profits are small. And he says if he had known earlier what he knows now about all the regulations, he never would have joined the industry.
"The old guys have just about (all) retired," he says. "The young guys are just scrapping it out now. I don't think (the termination of the registry) will encourage people to open more (shops), but it should help the people that have stayed in. It should bring them up to a profit level."
Although the gun-registration process doesn't cost shop owners a dime, he adds, they spend considerable time on paperwork notifying authorities about gun sales. There is an online gun-transfer system for shops that sell their own stock, but there is no such system for guns sold on consignment in shops, and consignment sales are common.
Groups including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Professional Police Association, the Canadian Public Health Association and women's, victims and suicide prevention groups across the country support maintaining the gun registry.
Coalition for Gun Control president Wendy Cukier says abolishing the registration of rifle and shotguns "endangers the security of all."
"It will make it easier for criminals, cop killers and abusive men to get access to guns," Cukier said in a statement. "A rifle or a shotgun in the wrong hands kills just as dead as a shotgun."
Law enforcement officials say the gun registry is consulted 5,000 times each day by police across the country.
(Monte Stewart can be reached at email@example.com)