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Times and Transcript
Gun-transport rules thrown into chaos
Published Friday November 12th, 2010

If you've been using your gun club membership as a permit to transport your big-game rifle to the shooting range out of season, you're in for a rude surprise.

A provincial court judge in Woodstock has delivered a not guilty verdict in the case of a gun owner who was using the long-held agreement between gun owners and the department of natural resources, known as the McCallum Memorandum, to transport his big-game rifle, only to get busted by game wardens for having a centre-fire rifle larger than a .22 in a resort of game last Nov. 25.

So if the judge found him not guilty, you might wonder why this is bad news? Because the court did not recognize the McCallum Memorandum, in effect throwing out the means firearm owners have used to legally (or so we mistakenly thought!) carry their bigger rifles to ranges across the province since 2004.

The McCallum Memorandum is named after Ernest McCallum, the province's one-time manager of client services for DNR, who is credited with coming up with a way to streamline the process of allowing owners of large-caliber rifles to take their rifles to ranges to sight them in, test fire them, or just blow off some energy on a nice day when there is no hunting season for big-bore rifles. Before the memorandum, a gun owner had to drive to a ranger station and get a permit which dictated at which range you were allowed to transport your rifle and at which time, and you weren't allowed to shoot before or after those permitted times - usually a couple of hours - nor veer from the direct route to the range and back home again. Issuing those permits cost DNR staff a ton of time (and thus money, YOUR money) for little benefit, so McCallum came up with a scheme whereby members of a fish and game club that had a range could use their membership as their transportation permit.

Everyone was happy.

The memorandum was to be in effect until 2006 as a test run, but it was never revoked.

Now, leap ahead to last Nov. 25, shortly after deer season, when conservation officers watched hunter and gun enthusiast Jeff Young driving slowly down semi-rural Route 105 - legally a resort of game - after dark with his 30-378 Weatherby unloaded and secured in a case.

When the officer asked for his transportation certificate, Young produced his gun club membership and a photocopy of the McCallum Memorandum. The officer was having none of that and charged him.

Young argued the officer had no justifiable cause to stop him, but the court rejected that argument.

He further argued his copy of the memorandum, combined with his club membership, allowed him to be in possession of the rifle outside big-game season, because the memorandum says so. The judge rejected that argument as well, which is the troubling part of this case for all of us who have relied on this memorandum for the past six years.

"It is clear that while the memorandum sets out a department policy," the judge wrote, "that policy has never been codified in either the (law) or any regulation under the act."

Young was acquitted however when the judge ruled that the accused was essentially arguing the defence known as "officially induced error," wherein someone who breaks the law can be found not guilty where they reasonably relied on bad advice from an official who is responsible for the administration or enforcement of a particular law.

But Young wasn't out of the woods - pardon the pun - just yet. Remember, when he was stopped, he wasn't taking a direct route home, but according to his own evidence was taking GPS points at various locations on his way home from a trip to the range earlier in the day.

The court ruled that still wasn't enough to convict him: "While a plain reading of the wording would establish that one could not drive around for days with the rifle in a vehicle, to say that one cannot stop momentarily en route is, in my view, an unduly restrictive interpretation of the plain meaning of the memorandum," the court ruled.

So a not guilty verdict was entered, no doubt to the relief of Young and to other gun owners, but somewhat troubling due to the wider ramifications of the ruling.

While not being a proverbial Philadelphia lawyer, it seems to me that the judge nevertheless has thrown cold water on the legal validity of the McCallum Memorandum, and that the thousands of New Brunswickers who use that, plus their gun club membership, in order to take large-calibre rifles to shooting ranges, have now been declared as acting outside the law.

Sure, we can argue we thought it was legal, and maybe we'll end up with a judge sympathetic to that argument just like Jeff Young did. Maybe not, too. And I'm not sure anyone wants to go through what Young went through, being stopped, questioned, arrested and tried in a public court of law, not to mention the court of public opinion. It might also be reasonably presumed that his firearm was seized as well.

No fun.

Where this leaves members of shooting ranges and gun clubs in this province is anyone's guess.

Are we to continue depending on the memorandum and hope we don't end up in handcuffs? Do we now revert to having to drive to a ranger station and fill out useless paper work in order to hit the range for an hour on a Saturday afternoon?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Personally, I would no longer venture outside my home with the ol' Savage .300 without a proper transportation permit, now that a judge has officially ruled that the memorandum is worth less than toilet paper.

Here's to hoping the DNR fixes this, and fast, before someone else ends up before the courts for doing nothing more than the exact same thing that thousands of us have safely been doing since 2004.
 

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Should we start going to the DNR office every chance we can to get a transport permit? Might be a good way to get a resolution to this situation. A club could also get all their member to show up at the same time...
 

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As a result of the aforementioned case, the New Brunswick Fish & Wildlife Act has now been amended as follows. Should there be any questions, I'd be more than pleased to help in whatever way possible.

42.1(1) Despite section 41 and subsection 42(1), a person who is a member of a shooting club that is registered in accordance with this section may:

(a) if the club is affiliated with a shooting range that is approved under section 29 of the Firearms Act (Canada), transport bows, crossbows and non-restricted firearms, as defined in the Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations under the Firearms Act(Canada), directly between his or her residence and either an approved shooting range that the club is affiliated with or an organized shooting event taking place at an affiliated approved shooting range of another club; or

(b) if the club is affiliated with any other shooting range, transport bows and crossbows directly between his or her residence and either a shooting range that the club is affiliated with or an organized shooting event taking place at an affiliated shooting range of another club.

42.1(2) A shooting club may register annually by providing the Minister with

(a) the information relating to the shooting club and its executive that the Minister considers appropriate, and

(b) a sample of the current membership card of the shooting club.

42.1(3) On the request of a conservation officer, a member of a club shall present his or her membership card to the conservation officer.
2012, c.35, s.5.
 

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So let me get this straight once again... New Brunswick has decided to trump the Firearms Act and declare that we require a permit (aka ATT) for non restricted firearms, and we all just sit and accept this?! What a crock of shit.

Start sending letters to your MPs folks, and then to the Prime Minister. This crap is not right...
 

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So let me get this straight once again... New Brunswick has decided to trump the Firearms Act and declare that we require a permit (aka ATT) for non restricted firearms, and we all just sit and accept this?! What a crock of ****.

Start sending letters to your MPs folks, and then to the Prime Minister. This crap is not right...
If I read JD's quote correctly, it's exactly the opposite.

Since that judge ruled that it was not part of the law that you can travel with your gun if you've got a membership card, it has now been amended into the NB F&W Act that the McAllum Memorandum is law. We can now safely travel directly to and from our range without worry of legal repercussions.

You can confirm that it's now in the F&W act here:
http://laws.gnb.ca/en/showdoc/cs/F-14.1
 
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