Agun auction is a good place to meet up with old hunting buddies, listen to tall tales, and bring home a bargain.
It’s also a good place to see how Canada’s gun laws work in real life.
In Arden last week, about 150 people attended the fall consignment sale put on by Meyers Auction and Appraisal Service.
The hunters in the crowd, obvious in their camouflage hats and coats, pressed forward through the crowd to have a look at the rifles and shotguns, all securely trigger locked and laid out on long tables.
Many took the opportunity to pick up the guns, open the breeches and peer through the sights and scopes before the bidding started.
Nobody touched the handguns, however. Buyers could only look at them – trigger locks also in place – through the Plexiglass cover of a padlocked wooden case.
To get a bidding card, buyers had to present two pieces or photo identification: a valid driver’s licence and a firearms Purchase or Acquisition Certifi-cate, or PAL.
Then, after the sale, each buyer had to wait in line for up to three hours while a half-dozen Meyers Auction employees completed the paperwork. That was done over the telephone with Canadian Firearms Registry staff in Miramichi, New Brunswick.
In some cases, before they could take possession of their new firearm, the buyers had to speak with registry officials over the phone to confirm their identity. Slowly but surely, the long. gun buyers walked out carrying their purchases to waiting vehicles.
All of the handgun buyers, however, went home empty handed.
That’s because they would have to wait at least seven days to secure the proper transfer paperwork, and then make arrangements for an official from the Canadian Firearms Centre to fax or post them a temporary Authorization to Transport (ATT) permit before Meyers Auction could release the guns to them.
In an example of just how tight current controls are on lawfully acquired handguns, the permit covers only the exact amount of time required to bring the firearm – unloaded and in a locked case out of sight or in the trunk of their vehicle – home via the most direct route.
Buyers for the most part cheerfully endured the process, and waited patiently for auction staff to complete the paperwork.
But for some, fierce opposition to the longgun registry has never waned.
Dave Grover, an avid hunter who said he has missed only three seasons in 47 years, called the gun registry a “crock” that has done nothing to prevent crime ever since it was adopted as part of Bill C-68, introduced in 1993 by a Liberal government under former prime minister Jean Chrétien.
“As far as hunting goes, the rangers don’t even check if your gun is registered. They’re more worried about whether you’ve got a legal jumper or if there are shells in your gun while it’s in the truck,” he said.
Chris Fraser from Sperling called it a “waste of money.”
“I got to the point where I stopped rifle hunting for a long time,” said Fraser, who took up bow hunting instead. “That whole licensing and registration business makes you feel like a criminal,” he added.
Despite his misgivings, he has since applied for and got a PAL and registered the three long guns that he owns.
Auctioneer Bradley Meyers, an avid hunter and gun owner himself, has invested substantial time and effort in tapping the specialized niche of gun auctions. Instead of simply being the middleman, and leaving buyer and seller on their own to deal with the details, his staff are now able to handle transfer paperwork now that he has gotten all the paperwork necessary to become a licensed gun dealer – albeit without a fixed storefront.
First, the guns are transferred from the consignors to his business name ahead of the sale. Then, on sale day, the registration certificate is transferred over to the new owner, who must provide a valid PAL and a physical address.
“Once that’s confirmed, you can give the guns to them,” he said.
The cost of the service, $12 per registration, is added onto the auction price. To do a large auction, Meyers said that he needs one extra office staff member, mainly to help with the phone calls.
“I spend a couple of days on the phone and on the computer getting all the registrations done. It makes it a little easier, but there’s still a lot of time involved,” said Meyers.
On sale day, the biggest headache is getting all the numbers to match up so that a transfer can go ahead.
“The big thing is the numbers. You’ve got 70 guns with 70 different identifying numbers that you have to give, along with the registration certificate number and the serial number – if the gun has never been verified before – and you have to measure and tell them the length of the barrel.”
In his personal opinion, Meyers would like to see the longgun registry abolished, and the money saved spent on more effective policing to stem the flow of illegal guns in the country from south of the border.
“The handgun registry needs to stay in place, I think,” said Meyers, who added that his beef is not with the bureaucrats, he noted, but rather with misguided public policy.
“Miramichi is good to work with. They get pretty busy once in awhile, but they are doing an excellent job.”