An East Vancouver retailer said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau triggered a short-term handgun rush on May 30 when he announced a freeze on pistol transactions is coming later this year.
“We're obviously selling more than we normally would, because everybody wants to beat the legislation they’re trying to push through,” said Victor Camele, general manager of Italian Sporting Goods. “But, on the flip side, it's going to destroy our business.”
Trudeau announced the Liberal government would be “capping the market for handguns,” by freezing the importing, buying, selling and transferring firearms. He made the announcement six days after the mass-murder of 19 elementary school students and two of their teachers in a Texas town. But the gunman used assault rifles, not a handgun.
Camele said his store’s clientele is mainly target and sport shooters and those rushing to purchase are already licensed. In the long-term, he said the federal move will probably mean a 40% hit to his business, which also includes the sale of ammunition, gun cases and accessories.
Elsewhere, at Lever Arms Service on Vancouver’s West Side, the employee who answered the phone after opening on June 1 put a reporter on hold and was heard telling a customer that transfers are delayed by high volume. He returned to the call and declined an interview because his store was too busy.
A Port Coquitlam retailer announced on Facebook May 31 that it closed its storefront to in-person, walk-in customers due to the buying frenzy and urged customers to use its website.
The online catalogue for Tiger Arms Ltd. shows handguns priced from $289.99 for a Norinco CF98 to a $9,299.99 CZ 75B Special Edition. But most handguns are listed as “out of stock.”
“For context, we have sold approximately 450 handguns in the past 24 hours,” said the posting on Tiger Arms Facebook page. “To clarify, we are not shutting down, just closing the retail storefront.”
Another post pleaded with customers to be patient. “In light of the recent announcement, we are swamped with orders! Orders are being processed as fast as humanly possible, calling in to check the status of your order only slows everything down.”
Nobody from the store responded for comment.
Tiger Arms is named after Rongxiang “Tiger” Yuan, a director of the company from 2013 to 2020 and a veteran of China’s People’s Liberation Army. In July 2016, Yuan made three donations to the Liberal Party, including one to Trudeau’s riding association, totalling $4,300.
Since March 2020, Hai Yan Avery Chow of Richmond has been listed as the sole director of Tiger Arms.
Canadian handgun buyers are required to hold a Possession and Acquisition Licence under the Firearms Act. Anyone without a valid firearms licence is required to wait at least 28 days to be licensed and must pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Course. Applicants must undergo background checks that include disclosing current and former conjugal partners and whether they have had criminal, emotional or financial problems.
The federal government said there are 1.1 million registered handguns, a 71% increase from 2010 to 2020. On May 27, the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics released a report looking at firearm-related violent crime from 2009 to 2020. More than six in 10 firearm-related violent crimes in urban areas involved a handgun. In rural areas, the most-common firearm was a rifle or shotgun.
“Rates of weapons possession offences have been increasing since 2013,” the report said. “Other non-violent weapons offences declined or remained stable over this period, with the exception of weapons trafficking, including unauthorized importing or exporting, which increased in both 2019 and 2020.”