The AR-15 has become the Gun Control lobby's ubiquitous poster boy for the need for gun control. However they were once massively disappointed to have it not become prohibited by a grass roots campaign launched by a sport shooting organization.
To give you a little background the AR-15 was once a non-restricted firearm. That's right, you could take it onto crown land and setup an austere range to fire it. You could take it out and use it to hunt. It didn't need to be registered and didn't require an Authorization To Transport (ATT). There are still many in the Canadian firearm community that can attest to doing all of this, and nobody was ever harmed.
Then came Bill C-17 introduced by a Conservative Government (at the time the Progressive Conservative Party) which would move the AR-15 to the restricted classification by name. Along with the AR-15 over 200 other models of rifles were moved to the restricted firearms classification under the classification of a review of "all military and para-military firearms". Before this move only two firearms were on the restricted classification due to the reason of military and para-military firearms, the semi-automatic version of the FN FAL used by the Canadian Forces and the 12 gauge shotgun known as the "High Standard Model". After this move models of purpose built semi automatic firearms were now on the restricted list after being in the country as non-restricted, including the AK-47 series of rifles and the AR-15 and all variants. (Source 1)
Bill C-68, now known as the Firearms Act, is where the death knell for all of the now restricted rifles came in the form of Prohibition. All of these rifles, purpose built semi automatic rifles that had been in lawful possession, were now proposed to be moved to the prohibited firearms list, including the AR-15. The Firearms Act allowed for Grandfathering to the current registered owners of the rifles, but it would not allow for the rifles to be passed on to inheritors, only sold to other prohibited license holders. This devalued the property greatly, and was designed to eventually remove the registered firearms from circulation entirely.
But what happened to the AR-15? It was on the list of proposed rifles to be prohibited at the time of debating the Firearms Act. What made it so special to be the only named restricted rifle to survive prohibition?
Well here is where the saying "there's strength in numbers" comes in to play, however it's not exactly how people mean it today. When said today it's in hope that a ban won't occur with a lot of owners, but if that were the case 12.6 prohibited pistols wouldn't have banned over 500000 firearms at the stroke of a pen.
No, strength in numbers comes into play with lots of owners and the type of lawful use. There is a limitation on the order-in-council (OIC) power to prohibit weapons that exempts "firearms of a kind commonly used in Canada for hunting or sporting purposes." (source 1). If these firearms are used for legitimate sporting or target shooting purpose they can't be banned by OIC.This is where the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association (DCRA) came into play. During the deliberations for Bill C-68 the DCRA presented the case that their organization held service rifle matches that used the AR-15 specifically in their competitions. These matches included Military and Law Enforcement personnel, as well as civilians, competing head to head in service rifle. The Military personnel would use their Military issued C-7 rifle, and any civilian in the competition had to compete with their AR-15.
This exerpt is taken from Mr Kirton's testimony at C-68 deliberation (source 2). "The first and major problem is the outright prohibition of the AR-15 rifle and its variants. This rifle is the commercial semi-automatic equivalent of the Canadian forces C-7 selective semi/full automatic rifle and is accepted in service rifle matches across Canada to permit civilians to engage in service rifle matches and to compete against the C-7 rifle. Marksmanship in the Canadian forces is stimulated by this civilian competition. This rifle was unrestricted originally, until the former bill, C-17, introduced under the former Conservative government, when it became restricted and has now been classified by regulation as prohibited, which legally prevents our members from using it.We ask that the Colt AR-15 rifle and its variants be given some form of exemption from prohibition for DCRA members so that it can continue to be used in legitimate competitive training and matches at all levels."
This gave the AR-15 a legitimate sporting use, in a recognized competition, by one of the most respected and oldest (founded in 1868) sport shooting organizations in Canada. Service rifle is internationally recognized, and hosted by multiple countries through out the world. This rifle has a sporting purpose more than simply punching paper.
Service Rifle competition saved the AR-15, and can again. It's up to you firearm owners to learn this history, remember it, and learn that there is a legitimate and internationally recognized sporting use for the rifle.
Finally it's up to you to join the DCRA, and participate when you can in service rifle events. Not only are you protecting your Canadian heritage of firearm use, as there's more than just the AR-15, but you're participating in the strength in numbers approach. The only strength in numbers there is would be solely in legitimate sporting use since it's a restricted rifle, and in the eyes of the Government the most recognized sport that you can use the AR-15 is Service Rifle.
Remember your history, learn from it in order to use it in the gun debate. Buy an AR-15, and join the DCRA. There truly is strength in numbers if you take the correct approach.
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1 - Gun Control Law in Canada, by William C Bartlett law - isbn 0-660-15652-0
2 - DCRA presentation transcripts for Bill C-68 deliberations. https://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/archives/committee/351/jula/evidence/113_95-04-27/jula113_blk-e.html