Are knives weapons? It depends

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

In Slave Lake Provincial Court on September 9, 2020, a man was convicted of two charges of possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes. The weapons in question were knives. This raised the question – are knives always weapons?

“You can’t paint with broad strokes,” says Slave Lake RCMP Staff Sergeant John Spaans. While some knives are prohibited, the majority of them are legal tools. However, they can also be used as a weapon. Another item which falls into this category is bear spray. It’s legal and people are encouraged to carry it when walking in bear country, but it is illegal to carry it as a weapon for use against a human being.

In some instances, Spaans says, the person is clearly using it as a weapon. Two years ago, a suspect sprayed an officer with bear spray. The suspect was running away from the officer. He pulled the bear spray out from under his shirt. He was charged and convicted of carrying a concealed weapon.

Other instances of that charge are less straightforward, Spaans continues, such as bear spray on the floor of a vehicle. Is it concealed? Is it being carried for use against bears or people?

“Generally, weapons offences are secondary to a substantive charge,” says Spaans. “We’re not going around shaking people down for weapons.”

Like many people, Spaans carries a pocket knife, to use as a tool. However, a knife becomes a weapon, “if you are using it as a weapon.”

The situation with firearms is in a way easier and in others more complex.
On Sept. 16, in Slave Lake Provincial Court, a man was found guilty of several firearms charges. The rifle in question was not a prohibited weapon, but it was improperly stored and he didn’t have a license.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about new federal gun laws. The Town of Slave Lake council signed a petition against these changes. When the federal announcement was made, the Alberta government was also vocal about the changes.

On May 1, 2020, the Canadian government added a lot of firearms and parts to the list of prohibited firearms. In Canada, there are three types of firearms – non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited.

The list is so long, that it might be easier to have a list of what is unrestricted.

The RCMP website breaks it down into more manageable chunks.

It says, “On May 1, 2020, the Government of Canada has prohibited nine types of firearms, by make and model, and their variants; and firearms with a bore of 20 mm or greater, and those firearms capable of discharging a projectile with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000 Joules; and the upper receivers of M16, AR-10, AR-15 and M4 pattern firearms.”

“The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) will be contacting all individual firearms license holders and firearms businesses in Canada to inform them of the new prohibitions.”

Public Safety Canada has a comparison of the nine categories of firearms and how the new legislation changes the specification of the firearms.

It says the M14 rifle category went from non-restricted to prohibited. Firearms within the other eight categories were a mix of non-restricted and restricted.

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