The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Meet Canada’s National Firearms Association

AS THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES MORE ASSAULTS ON FIREARM FREEDOMS, THE NATIONAL FIREARMS ASSOCIATION LOOKS TO STOP THEIR OVERT ACTS OF TYRANNY

Canada and the USA have a lot in common — for instance, gun culture: We both feed ourselves with game harvested with firearms, we compete with firearms, collect them, and we protect ourselves with them. 

But the politics surrounding firearms in these two countries differ greatly. 

Our attitude and ability to speak up about gun politics differ. 

In Canada, the government of the day has recently been focused on “gun control.” Canadians are world-renowned for being agreeable, easy-going folks. 

But this is changing with respect to firearms. The new generation of Canadian gun owners has a voice, and they’re being heard loud and clear. 

If the trucker convoy tells you anything, it’s clear that the Great White North has pretty much had it with government overreach. 

Think gun ownership in the U.S. is getting tougher? Imagine how bad the Canucks have had it. 

However, things are starting to change. Canada’s National Firearms Association and its new president, Blair Hagen, have been major proponents of Canadians’ desire to bear arms and rid the country of legislation that has no place in a free society. 

Canadian NFA (1)
NFA President Blair Hagen addresses an annual meeting of the association.

RECOIL recently interviewed Hagen to get his take on NFA, current gun-related issues, and gun culture in Canada. Hagen has a 25-year span of experience with the organization and is focused on what Canadians can do to protect their rights.  

RECOIL: What is the NFA and what does it do?

Blair Hagen: We basically do the same thing in Canada as the NRA does in the United States. NFA is active nationally. We are a national organization; we are active politically and legislatively. Canada’s National Firearms Association was formed in 1978 in direct response to the Liberal government’s legislation of the day. That’s when the first real fundamental anti-gun civil disarmament legislation got started in Canada. That was under the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau.

BH: Of course, we have a different Trudeau today. This woke a lot of Canadians up to what was going on. It certainly aided in the formation of the National Firearms Association, as a large national organization to fight that agenda. We’ve been around for a very long time. We’re Canada’s oldest advocacy for firearms rights organization. That was the beginning, the issue that coalesced and allowed us to form our national organization as necessary. 1978 was the fundamental start; it was the breaking point in Canada. That started us off on the agenda we’re on today.

Canadian NFA (4)
NFA staff and politicians connect with the public at a BYOG (Bring Your Own Gun) meet and greet at Ontario’s Silverdale Gun Club. Left to right: Dean Allison, member of Parliament for the riding of Niagara West, Ontario; Charles Zach, NFA Executive Director – Registered Lobbyist; Krystina Waler, Conservative Party candidate for St. Catharines, Ontario; Jordan Vandenhoff, NFA Executive Director – Digital and Social Media, Ontario Regional Director; Sheldon Clare, NFA former president and CEO.

Welcome to the role of president. Tell us about that.

BH: I’ve been president of NFA before. I was president from 2008 to 2010. I’ve been with this organization for 25 years, and have had several different roles provincially and nationally, so it’s nothing new for me. 

How did your relationship with guns and gun culture get started?

BH: When my family came to British Columbia, Canada, early in the 20th century, hunting was how they fed themselves. Hunting was very big; it had to be big, you had to feed yourself and your family. Guns were always around. Even though I wasn’t directly involved in those pursuits, I understood it to be part of my family history, part of the culture of British Columbia, and the culture of Canada.

What happened in 1990 with Canadian gun legislation that got your attention?

BH: In the early 1990s legislation was brought down by governments, and that pushed on a cultural institution that I felt was my right as a Canadian citizen, and certainly put the culture and history of my family under threat. I sat up, took notice seeing that it needed to be defended. That’s how I got into the political aspect of this.

A wake-up call for Canadian gun owners? Are Canadians too cooperative?

BH: Canadians are very cooperative. They’re very laid back about these things. While Americans have always been very strident in defending their rights, Canadians have been very cooperative. And you know, interested in things like public safety. Whenever governments came up with the idea that we’ve got a gun problem here, Canadians have been too cooperative and tolerant of government gun control efforts. Historically, that’s been our problem in Canada. I think it’s got us to the point where we are today. 

BH: There have been several different things that have contributed to pieces of government legislation, which have changed Canadian gun culture in the last 30 years. Canadian gun culture, I would say, is similar to American gun culture. And I mean that in all respects: hunting, target shooting, self-defense, things like that were always part of our culture. They were always provided for in our legislation in our laws, until recent times when they came under attack by certain governments. The idea of what you’re doing is legal and reasonable has always been celebrated in Canada, until recently when it was targeted by the legislation.

What recent NFA victories can you point to?

BH: The big legislative victory was Bill C 1920 12, the ending of long-gun registration in Canada. In 1995, a Liberal government brought down legislation that demanded universal registration and mandatory licensing of all firearms owners. It was a big controversy at the time. A conservative government was elected in 2006, with a promise to end this, but at the time they weren’t able to do it as a minority government. But when they were reelected in 2011, they had a majority government and had the votes in Parliament. They undertook a legislative agenda to address these laws that had been imposed in 1995. They did that in 2012. That was probably the biggest legislative victory. 

Canadian NFA (5)
Canadian gun owners burned their registration cards when the NFA’s efforts helped to repeal the registration of all rifles and shotguns.

BH: As a matter of fact, it was the first firearms law reform in modern Canadian political history. And it was a very good precedent. It showed that firearms law reform could be introduced, it was popular, it was seen as the government of the day to deliver on an election promise. It was a good thing. There were other reforms under that government: Bill C 42, in 2015, made other minor reforms to firearms laws in Canada, but it showed that firearms law reform could take place. In previous years there was no political solution to any of this. After the political realignments in Canada in the mid-2000s, we put a lot of pressure on conservative governments to do that. And it paid off.

What can we look forward to in the future?

BH: If we are going to look forward to anything, it’s going to have to be under another government. The current Liberal government under Justin Trudeau isn’t interested in any firearms law reform. As a matter of fact, they’re doubling down on the failed agendas of the past with Bill C 71. This was the government legislation introduced a few years ago that was meant to reintroduce long-gun registration through the backdoor. This is what the Liberals are famous for with gun control laws — we’re going to introduce legislation; we’re going to force this on people. And well, how are we going to do this doesn’t matter, we’ll figure it out later, we’ll pass a law. And then we’ll bring it in when we can figure out how to do it. And even the elements of that law — most of them — have not been implemented yet. 

Canadian NFA (10)
Handguns may be owned in Canada but must be registered and can only be shot on approved ranges.

BH: There’s the May 2020 O.I.C. (Order In Council), which purports to ban and confiscate a certain number of semi-automatic firearms. They haven’t figured out how to do that yet, so those firearms, thankfully, are still in the hands of their owners. And we have an opportunity to defeat this government and correct that. This is an offense against citizenship. What they’ve done is egregious and beyond the pale to attack the rights and property of law-abiding citizens in this way, and it’s completely unacceptable. It completely shows the agenda of the Liberal Party regarding firearms. They should be ashamed of themselves — what they’ve done to Canadians, what they’ve done to our rights and freedoms — and we’re going to correct it.

What is NFA focused on now?

BH: Well, we’re going to keep on doing what we’re doing. We’re focused now. We have a goal to completely fundamentally reform Canada’s firearms laws to protect and advance the Canadian right and cultural tradition of firearms ownership. I think in past years, a lot of Canadians have sort of looked at this debate in the United States and said, “Well, you know, that’s what’s going on in the United States. We’ll be a little more reasonable about it here.” We’re not going to be “reasonable” about it anymore. Our rights and freedoms are under attack. We know this is part of our culture. You have lied to us in the past. We know your intentions are not honorable, they have nothing to do with the public safety of Canadians. And that is the lens we’ll look at it through.

Can we repeat past successes?

BH: Well, it’s always new territory. I would say that the political opportunities of the past have certainly invigorated us. We have had successes in Canada where previously we didn’t. In the period before the year 2000, it was unthinkable that firearms law reform could take place in Canada — it was a one-way street. We were going to have more and more repressive firearms laws, and there was nothing we could do about it. That was the way it was going. When we defeated the long-gun registry in 2012, it showed that firearms law reform was possible. And it was popular for a government to do it. A government ran on the promise to do this. They were elected. They paid off on it. 

Canadian NFA (6)
The NFA publishes a bimonthly magazine to inform and entertain its members.

BH: The problem with The Firearms Act that we continue to labor under now as it was imposed in 1995 is that it addressed a whole lot of parts of it and was only partially addressed in the ending of long-gun registration in 2012. There are several things that attack the rights and freedoms of Canadians that were not addressed in those reforms. We hope to address that in the future. And that’s our goal. We are going to address those things, like mandatory firearms licensing, mandatory firearms licenses simply to own your own property. That’s offensive to Canadian citizenship, and that must be ended.

Do you think the new generation of gun owners are more outspoken?

BH: I’ve been with this organization for 25 years, moving through several different generations of firearms owners in Canada. Earlier generations were sort of like, “You know, as long as I have my duck gun, my deer rifle, I’m not going to be too worried about it.” That all changed in 1995. I think a lot of Canadians woke up to the fact that, hey, my rights and my property are under attack now, and where I thought, “Why does somebody need a handgun? Or why does somebody need one of these ugly black rifles? Well, you know, the fact that I’m being directly affected by these laws now, maybe I was wrong, and maybe I better take another look at that.” And a lot of people woke up and came to understand what was going on. 

BH: I think the Liberal government of the day made a bad mistake of that. And the effect of it was it completely changed Canadian culture regarding this. Subsequent generations of Canadian gun owners have taken that to heart. Certainly, our experience in NFA is that we’re getting new people involved, new people joining who understand this. New generations of Canadian gun owners understand this issue completely and get involved and politically active in support of those things now, where it was a trial to get people to do that in the past.

What would you leave readers with? 

BH: Gun politics is now a thing in Canada, where it never was in the past. It depends on the audience. This is RECOIL magazine, certainly — Americans are facing a lot of challenges to their Second Amendment rights right now. Keep fighting.

Canadian NFA (2)
Charles Zach (left), executive director and registered in-house lobbyist for Canada’s National Firearms Association, meets with Senator Donald Plett.

BH: I know in a lot of states it seems like a hopeless fight. It’s not; this is your birthright. OK, it’s demanded of you. Fight these fundamentally wrong laws. Never give up. Never give in. Never accept what they’re trying to force on you. This is freedom, freedom at its most significant base. Our rights and freedoms on this continent, North America, the United States, and Canada. Canadians keep on doing what you’re doing.

BH: We will win this fight. We have the allies in Ottawa; we have the political and cultural base now. We know what we’re doing. When we defeat the government, we will get back on the road to firearms law reform. We will make these reforms, and we will protect the Canadian right and cultural tradition of firearms ownership. 

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2 responses to “Meet Canada’s National Firearms Association”

  1. Bruno B says:

    I wis this was true but the gun lobby groups are not out to help us. They were well aware that the firearms band would not affect our hunting rifles but decided to try and stir up emotions of the gun owners. They also have not launched an information campaign to educate the public on the merits of sustainable hunting. as with most things they are out to take care of themselves.

  2. Kevin Boyle says:

    I am one of those Canadians who began hunting/shooting in the 1960’s. I wish I could share an air of optimism. The only real win was by former PM Joe Clark. Why has our community continually lost ground? Even the Mulroney government via Kim Campbell. A”paper shuffle” by former PM Stephen Harper may seem as a “major” win, but not by so many of us who have seen “losses” continually.

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