The BC government recently rushed Bill 4 (the Firearm Violence Prevention Act) into law claiming it was an attempt to deal with drug and gang violence. Unfortunately, this poorly designed bill misses its target. Instead of initiating programs to divert youth from being seduced into a gangster lifestyle, or taking serious steps to lock up violent thugs in prison, Bill 4 introduces a patchwork of measures that snare duck hunters, sport shooters, fancy cars, toys, and even physicians and social workers.
By confusing duck hunters with gang bangers, Bill 4 will cause greater problems for honest citizens than for gun-toting thugs. Two of the most egregious problems with Bill 4 leap out at anyone who goes beyond the government media releases and reads the bill itself.
First, Bill 4 authorizes the impoundment and eventual confiscation of any vehicle that police claim has been used to transport illegal firearms or to flee police. Not convicted, just accused. This reverses the important legal principle of being considered innocent until proven guilty and forces the owner to prove his innocence. And that’s not all. The police are allowed to designate the firm that will hold the impounded vehicle until trial. Since trials usually occur years after charges are laid, impoundment virtually guarantees confiscation. By allowing police to confiscate property in this way, Bill 4 invites police corruption, as similar legislation did in Ontario.
Second, Bill 4 shields health professionals (and social workers) from civil liability who tell police that they suspect a client would use a firearm or imitation firearm to “threaten or intimidate another person.” Currently, physicians are permitted to warn police when aware of that a patient poses a “serious, imminent danger posed by a patient …[if] the patient had made specific threats.” But Bill 4 lowers the bar to a shocking level: all that is needed to call police are just vague threats or “feelings” of intimidation if a firearm, or even an “imitation firearm,” is involved. Plus, Bill 4 expands the list of people exempt from civil liability charges to include other health professionals and social workers. The result is that, by removing civil liability, Bill 4 invites false, even malicious, complaints, against innocent people.
Why did the government dream up such a mishmash of a bill? That’s difficult to say. The government has not provided any evidence that demonizing firearms in this way will reduce suicide rates or family violence.