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For example, under the Firearms Act of Canada the SVD Dragunov is banned as a variant of the AK-47. The SVD is a completely different design which shares no important parts (a single screw in the buttstock), and you'd be hard pressed to find a firearm expert who would agree that it's a variant of any Kalashnikov design.

Here is the text:

The firearm of the design commonly known as the AK-47 rifle, and any variant or modified version of it except for the Valmet Hunter, the Valmet Hunter Auto and the Valmet M78 rifles, but including the: (a) AK-74; (b) AK Hunter; (c) AKM; (d) AKM-63; (e) AKS-56S; (f) AKS-56S-1; (g) AKS-56S-2; (h) AKS-74; (i) AKS-84S-1; (j) AMD-65; (k) AR Model .223; (l) Dragunov;

It seems to me this would be equivalent to say, a law banning steam locomotives specifically naming the Ford Mustang as a steam locomotive. While a Ford Mustang shares some common traits with a steam locomotive, such as being motorized transport that requires fuel, it's quite obvious that a Ford Mustang is not a steam locomotive.

I'm specifically looking for examples in common-law countries where this sort of thing has been challenged or ruled on instead of being ignored.

  • Can you find a link to a full copy of the text that contains your quote? laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/f-11.6/fulltext.html appears to have the full text, which not only lacks your section, but doesn't mention your section, or name any specific models for that matter. – sharur Dec 13 '18 at 17:29
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    I don't have a definitive answer, so I'll be watching this with interest. I'll note, however, that courts will frequently (but not always) defer to legislative intent when interpreting an ambiguous or contradictory law. So whether Parliament intended to ban Dragunov rifles (even if they're not actually AK-47s) would be an important factor in making the decision. – Michael Seifert Dec 13 '18 at 17:31
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    @sharur: The list of prohibited firearms is available here; the section on AK-47s and variants is item 64. The fact that the list contains dozens of subsections would seem to argue that Parliament did in fact intend to ban a large class of firearms, though I don't know enough about firearms to know if there are any other similar firearms in that list. In other words, did Parliament intend to ban only "steam locomotives", or did it mean to ban lots of vehicles and just happened to list a Mustang as a locomotive? – Michael Seifert Dec 13 '18 at 17:33
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    While the Dragunov may not be a modified AK-47, if it works like one it might be considered a variant. "Variant" is likely not a precisely defined word. Saying steam locomotive and including a diesel locomotive might be a better analogy. Differences that might be obvious to an expert are not necessarily visible to the layman. – David Thornley Dec 13 '18 at 23:52
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    The purpose of the text is just to precisely describe what firearms are banned. It does not attempt to explain why they're banned. It clearly includes the Dragunov. I don't see why it matters that the Dragunov isn't covered by the broad description. Certainly the more specific statement would clear up any questions about what the broad statement did or didn't cover. – David Schwartz Dec 14 '18 at 22:08
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I'm no expert on guns in the mechanical sense, but I'm very into 2nd amendment issues and read up on the matters often to make sure I can articulate my position. After doing some research, I found the Dragunov Sniper Rifle (Russian: Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova) and will use the Russian derived acronym for this discussion.

As stated in the Wikipedia article, it has several features in common with the AK family (more on this in a second) that would lead the uninformed (sadly, pretty much any politician that does not like guns... who are the ones writing these laws most often) to mistake them for an AK family rifle, despite these features being largely cosmetic (and often "Scary looking") to the the uninformed politician. This is fairly common in Gun Legislation as the US's 1994 assault rifle ban (and all attempts to re-enact it) had a number of guns that were listed solely for cosmetic reasons or were not allowed to have certain parts attached to the gun for the same reasons (And in some cases, the feature did make the gun look scary but served a vital function that would see notably diminished capacity in the gun it was attached too. In a few examples, the banned attachment was a safety feature meaning that the gun was more dangerous when it looked "Safe" than it ever was when it was "scarier").

The effect of the law based on false facts is negligable. There are lots of laws passed that are based on lies, false data, misconceptions, ect. and just because they are bad faith does not make them illegal. They are still laws. Similarly, even if you say the SVD was miscatogorized into the AK family of weapons, it doesn't negate the fact that the law's purpose was to stop the listed guns from being legal to own firearms, even if they made a mistake as to where they put it. From what I know of the general attitude towards guns in Canada, and the general attitude of the people in the States who make similar legislation, it seems like they intended to ban all these weapons individually and classified the SVD incorrectly.

The reason that this happens is because, while these legislators don't know much about guns, they know a lot about miltary grade weapons sales to know that gun varients happen often and generally in a few different ways. It could be that a country with a strong arms manufacturing sector (like the U.S. or Soviet Union) will enter into deals that sell arms to an ally in exchange for money into their economy and intel on the weapons stock. It's easy for the U.S. to know how many tanks a nation has if it has the bill of sale. Often, to get some people back home happy with him, the purchaser will ask if they can make the weapon themselves, with assistance from a handful of in the know seller nation engineers and a lot of their own workers filling out the rest of the manufacturing roles. The other reason is that enemy nations secured the weapon and want to make their own, both for training against it OR because it's so good and they cannot buy it. The AK-47 was subject to both reasons as the Soviets widely sold it to their allies and the US widely stole it because they wanted to know what made it work AND it was better than the US standard issues... so it got this treatment a lot. (The third option is that of the AR-15 and similar rifles. The AR-15 is quite popular in the U.S. and the copyright on the manufacture of the weapon has lapsed. There are a number of gun manufacturers that will sell AR-15 like rifles but under a different name because AR-15 is still a trademark name, even if the design is not, and the derivative rifle maker can be sued for trademark violation.).

Suffice to say, since legislatures do deal with these matters a lot, as they typically approve of all sales of arms to other nations, they do understand this concept very well, even if they are not in favor of civilian gun ownership. It's likely they assumed the SVD was related to the AK-47 and did not want to write it out as a seperate model and didn't check. Thus, they intended to ban a lot of vehicles, including a locomotive and a Mustang, and for some reason thought that the Mustang was a locomotive and put it there instead of with the list of cars. If you find it a stretch to believe, go look at the questions asked by the various sub-comittees to the CEOs of tech companies and then tell me again the mistake you're asking about is not the dumbest thing ever to happen in a legislature.

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