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Tom Davis says wording in Bill C-21 is problematic for his small business
Ottawa taking aim at fake guns is causing real problems for a St. John’s entrepreneur who says it could kill his business.
Frontline Action, in business since 1994, hosts groups interested in shooting sports like laser tag, paintball and airsoft and rents out inflatable bouncing castles for kids. The replica guns fire biodegradable plant-based plastic projectiles.
Proposed federal legislation, Bill C-21, would ban the sale, use and importation of a variety of assault-style weapons. It would do the same for mid-velocity replica firearms that look like a real gun. According to information on the Public Safety Canada website, the bill would permit the continued use of airguns that do not mimic the appearance of a deadly firearm. Current owners of replica guns would be allowed to keep them but would not be able to transfer ownership to other people.
Tom Davis, the owner of Frontline Action, does not take issue with the bill’s goals concerning assault-style weapons.
“I’m not dead set against Bill C-21,” he told The Telegram.
Airsoft guns tend to look more like real firearms than paintball ones do, David said.
“The way the clause is worded, it’s specifically targeted at airsoft, but it doesn’t say airsoft,” he said.
Posted by Frontline Action on Monday, December 28, 2020
News of this potential change comes at a difficult time for Davis. Like most business owners during the pandemic, he has dealt with a lot of challenges.
His mobile service for bouncing castles and other inflatable items was wiped out by the pandemic, and that typically accounts for approximately one-quarter of Frontline’s business. Indoor and outdoor activities have both taken a hit — more so for the former than the latter. Meanwhile, sales at the pro shop have increased a bit.
“Paintball and airsoft was 90 per cent of our business for 2020,” Davis said, later adding the two activities would account for 40 per cent of business in a normal year. “And the way 2021 is going, it’s probably not going to be any different.”
Davis expects the pandemic will affect his business for years, but Bill C-21 is an entirely different beast.
“This would just put me out of business overnight,” he said.
This passionate and professional video captures the reasons that the clause in Bill C21 that might shut down the sport of airsoft and possibly paintball needs to be amended or removed.Posted by Frontline Action on Monday, March 1, 2021
Action in Ottawa
Federal Conservative MP Terry Dowdall has sponsored a petition to reject Bill C-21 on the grounds airsoft and paintball shooting is safe and important to small businesses across the country.
Last Friday during a second reading of the bill in the House of Commons, St. John’s East NDP member Jack Harris directed a question at Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
Harris acknowledged his party’s longstanding support of banning assault rifles but added that if there is a permissible recreational use for firearms, it makes little sense to ban airsoft rifles.
“Will the minister recognize that this is a totally different category, and try to find some way of allowing this to continue in recreational use? The banning of airsoft rifles is putting them in the same category as prohibited weapons, and that is wrong,” Harris said, according to Hansard transcription.
Blair responded there is no issue with airsoft rifles, except when their appearance matches dangerous firearms. He said this is something the law enforcement community wants to see addressed and added there were plenty of instances within the last year where replica firearms were used to commit crimes.
“There really is no place for them in our society,” he said. “They represent an unacceptable risk.”
I need your help to save Frontline Action. I am asking for your assistance in helping to save our business and the...Posted by Frontline Action on Saturday, February 27, 2021
According to Davis, people in the airsoft and paintball industry were caught off guard when they learned about the clause in the bill concerning replica firearms as it was introduced in the House of Commons last month. He said there are up to 300 businesses across the country employing upwards of 3,000 people with a stake in Bill C-21’s handling of mid-velocity replica firearms.
“There really wasn’t much of an organization before now,” Davis said. “Since two Fridays ago, there’s now a national organization with representatives from the paintball and airsoft business industry in every province.”
A lot of those business, like his own, have struggled during the pandemic, and Davis reckons civil servants who drafted Bill C-21 did not fully consider the scope of its potential impact.
Andrew Robinson is a business reporter in St. John's.