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Canada Matt Gurney on COVID-19: Don't panic at the surge in Canadian gun sales

22:01  09 april  2020
22:01  09 april  2020 Source:   nationalpost.com

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Guns on display at a Cabela's store on July 19, 2011 in Edmonton, Alberta. © Rick MacWilliam/EDMONTON JOURNAL Guns on display at a Cabela's store on July 19, 2011 in Edmonton, Alberta.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Though it’s hard to track with certainty, there are some reports that Canadians are buying up ammunition and firearms. This is happening as well in the United States. Those already ill disposed toward civilian firearms owner in Canada probably feel a bit queasy at the prospect of guns and ammo flying off of shelves, and assume it’s driven by blind panic, fear that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in some societal collapse and we’ll all soon be killing each other for the last roll of toilet paper.

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There’s undoubtedly some of that going on. But the real answer is probably a lot more mundane, and less easily slotted into pre-existing opinions regarding civilian firearms ownership in Canada. Sorry, culture warriors.

We’ve seen this before, actually. A series of articles a few years ago made much of a rise in ownership of firearms in Canada — particularly those firearms classified under the Firearms Act as “restricted” firearms. This mostly means handguns, but does include some rifles as well. The number of such firearms lawfully owned by Canadians climbed steadily from 2012 to 2016, the articles noted, and the rise seemed to begin after the Harper government scrapped the long-gun registry in 2012. There may well have been some psychological effect of the scrapping of the long-gun registry on sales of restricted firearms — but not a direct one. The long-gun registry registered non-restricted firearms. It had nothing to do with registration of restricted guns, which has remained in full force to this day. Other Harper-era changes to our gun control laws similarly would have had minimal impact — zero, in most cases — on the sale of restricted guns, because the purchasing and licensing requirements weren’t changed. A lot of Canadians who don’t understand the complexities of our gun-control system probably assumed that scrapping the long-gun registry somehow made it easier or more convenient to buy a handgun. But it didn’t. At all.

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So what did happen? No one knows for sure, but you know what else was happening around that time? The Canadian dollar went up relative to the U.S. dollar.

Not steadily, of course. That’s not how currency exchange works. But around 2012, while the long-gun registry was being scrapped, the Canadian dollar was riding high against the greenback, even above it at times. The vast majority of firearms sold in Canada are sourced from the United States — the world’s largest manufacturer of firearms. They’re sold by U.S. distributors and manufacturers to Canadian stores at prices marked in U.S. currency. And then to Canadian customers in Canadian currency. So when the Canadian dollar is high, firearms, like any other import from the U.S., get cheaper to Canadian customers. And more Canadians buy.

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This is just a theory, of course. There’s no real polling or way to determine why any individual makes a specific purchasing decision. But for all the ire aimed at Harper for scrapping the long-gun registry, and the apparent surge in purchasing it caused in a class of firearms the long-gun registry didn’t even track, it always seemed odd to ignore the more boring possible explanation that people bought more guns because guns became cheaper.

a man holding a phone:  Alison de Groot, managing director of the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association, seen at Phoenix Indoor Range and Gun Shop in Edmonton, August 24, 2019. © Ed Kaiser/Postmedia Alison de Groot, managing director of the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association, seen at Phoenix Indoor Range and Gun Shop in Edmonton, August 24, 2019.

And there’s echoes of that today. The Canadian firearms and ammunition market still get a huge percentage of its inventory from the U.S. The Canadian dollar is weakening, which means that the next shipment of supplies to Canadian retailers are going to cost more than what’s on the shelf today. Further, the pandemic seems to be hitting the U.S. much harder than Canada. What that’s going to mean for U.S. manufacturing and exports is anyone’s guess. But with disruption to manufacturing and exports possible, even likely, and with soaring demand for guns and ammo in the U.S. already eating into their domestic production, any Canadian hunter or sports shooter who was thinking of making a purchase should make it now. It may be a while before shelves are restocked and when they are, the prices are likely to be higher, due to the recent weakening (though admittedly not dramatic) of the loonie against the greenback. And sales volumes were already high, as firearms owners tried to get ahead of changes the federal Liberals are considering to existing firearms laws (they seem somewhat distracted by other matters at the moment, mind you).

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To be clear, there probably is some degree of “panic” buying going on, as Canadians contemplate some grim possible scenarios if this pandemic and its economic consequences linger and hit the country hard. The pandemic has revealed weaknesses in our society and made possible — not likely, but possible — some truly appalling possibilities that Canadians simply haven’t had to worry about in generations, or longer. There’s nothing wrong with an individual or a family considering how best they can improve their own security (economic, food, and yes, physical) during dangerous and unsettled times. If that sounds like paranoia to you, just try to imagine what it would have sounded like three months ago if someone had told you we’d all be essentially confined to our homes while the economy collapses and the Americans prepare to dig mass graves in New York City.

Still, the overblown fear over the previous surge in gun sales is a good lesson for us all. People buy firearms for a lot of different reasons, many of them absolutely mundane. Given how long it takes to get a gun licence in this country, anyone buying a gun today already had their licence (or, at least, had begun the process of getting it) before the pandemic. The Canadian gun licensing system overall does a very good job of doing what it’s supposed to do — keeping firearms out of the wrong hands.

In short, we should all remain calm. We’ve got real problems right now. A good sales month for your local hunting supply shop ought to be near the bottom of that list.

National Post

magurney@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/MattGurney

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