Alison de Groot

Gun shop owners feel left out of the debate over gun control, says Alison de Groot, of the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association, who was in Kelowna on Thursday.

The fast-growing and economically important hobby of sport shooting would be imperilled by new firearms regulations, gun shop owners say.

Thousands of Canadian jobs depend on, and considerable tax revenue is produced by, the sale of firearms to people who enjoy target shooting at approved ranges, they say.

“In our business, any further restrictions on firearms is going to be very detrimental,” Chris Weber, of Kelowna’s Weber and Markin Gun Smiths, said Thursday.

“Sport shooters are now way more important to our business than are hunters,” Weber said. “They buy more firearms, shells and accessories than hunters do.”

A new study, commissioned by the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA), aims to convey the economic impact of the industry in advance of expected discussions about further gun control legislation during this fall’s federal election.

According to the study, British Columbians spent $1 billion on hunting and sport shooting last year. Across Canada, the industry supports 48,000 jobs and 4,500 small businesses.

“These business owners are committed to the safety of the communities where they live and work, their employees, and their customers,” said Alison de Groot, managing director of the CSAAA.

“They don’t see themselves reflected in the current debate around firearms in Canada,” she said.

None of the federal parties have released their platforms concerning gun control, but Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this month the party would introduce more regulations if re-elected.

“We look forward to the very next time Parliament is sitting, hopefully under a Liberal government, where we will be able to introduce further measures to strengthen measures against guns,” Trudeau said in Toronto on Aug. 13.

Weber, who has been a gunsmith for more than 30 years, said: “There’s definitely hope we can preserve the business going forward,” he said. “But I also think this industry might also be, a little bit, the business of the dinosaur.”

What gives him hope, he said, is the growing popularity of sport shooting among young people, especially women.

“Especially among female shooters, the increase has been tremendous over the last 10 years,” he said.