More than 1K models of assault-style weapons now prohibited in Canada: PM Trudeau
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the federal government is immediately placing a ban on 1,500 models and variants of certain assault-style weapons that have been used in mass shootings in Canada and abroad.
“Effective immediately, it is no longer permitted to buy, sell, transport, import or use military-grade assault weapons in this country,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister described the sweeping regulations as “closing the market” on these weapons in Canada.
This is being done by changing the classification of these guns in Canada, moving them from non-restricted or restricted class, to “prohibited.”
However, the changes won’t outlaw these weapons completely in Canada, as the government will be offering current owners of these guns the ability to grandfather in their ownerships, allowing them to still possess these guns under specific terms. Owners will also have the ability to be compensated through a buyback program, though the details of both options have yet to be outlined.
The prime minister spoke about how every Canadian can remember the day they realized how “a man with a gun could irrevocably alter our lives for the worse.”
Citing a list of mass shootings in Canada, Trudeau said they “shape our identity” and “stain our conscience,” and are happening more and more often.
The prime minister diverted from his usual daily COVID-19 updates to make the announcement alongside Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Justice Minister David Lametti, and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on Parliament Hill.
Blair, a former police chief, has been stickhandling the federal government’s gun policy and he said that “from this moment forward, the number of these guns will only decrease in Canada.”
Though, some gun control advocates are already voicing concern about the government allowing current owners to keep their guns.
“Allowing grandfathered weapons would be a huge concession to the gun lobby. In terms of public safety benefits, there is a world of difference between a total ban and a partial ban. A non-mandatory buy-back program could mean that it will take generations to get these weapons off our streets and out of our communities,” said Heidi Rathjen, a Polytechnique graduate and coordinator of PolyRemembers in a statement.
Pro-gun groups, however, view the announcement as unfairly targeting legal gun owners.
“What I think a lot of people don’t understand, they don’t understand what it is to own firearms. Firearms are very important to the people that own them… They have gun clubs, there are volunteer activities, the things they do on the weekend all revolves around these things and they treat those guns with respect and follow the law to the letter,” said CEO and Executive Director of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, Rod Giltaca, in an interview on CTV News Channel.
“That’s why it’s so offensive for gun owners to have the finger pointed at them and have them compared to mass murderers and people that would misuse firearms,” Giltaca said.
The ban includes guns that have been used in past Canadian shootings, such as:
- the Ruger Mini-14 that was used in the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in Montreal in 1989, and which the government estimates there are 16,860 currently in circulation in Canada;
- the M14 semi-automatic that was used in the 2014 Moncton shooting, which the government estimates there are 5,230 in Canada;
- the Beretta CX4 Storm that was used in the Dawson College shooting, which the government estimates there are approximately 1,510 currently in circulation; and
- the CSA-VZ-58 that the gunman attempted to use in the Quebec mosque shooting, which the government says there are 11,590 in Canada.
Another one of the firearms on Canada’s list of federally prohibited weapons is the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, which was used by the gunman who killed 50 people at a Christchurch, New Zealand mosque in 2019, as well as in other mass shootings in the United States including the Sandy Hook and Las Vegas massacres. A handful of similar models are also on the list, as well as guns with muzzle energy exceeding 10,000 joules and those with calibres exceeding 20 millimetres, such as grenade launchers.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said these weapons are “designed for only one purpose: to kill people, and to look like they can kill people.”
“The culture around their fetishization makes our county inherently more dangerous for the people most vulnerable,” she said.
Less than a month after the 2019 Christchurch attack, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her government outlawed most automatic and semi-automatic weapons as well as components to modify existing weapons. Trudeau was scheduled to speak with Ardern on Friday.
2-YEAR AMNESTY, WITH CONDITIONS
Noting that the “vast majority” of gun owners use them safely and lawfully, the government is putting in place a two-year amnesty period to protect those with these guns from criminal liability until they can take steps to comply with the new rules.
Specifically, Lametti said that there will be an amnesty order put into the Criminal Code effective Friday and lasting until April 30, 2022 for Canadians who currently lawfully own these newly prohibited firearms, giving them “a reasonable timeframe to come into compliance.”
During this time they can be legally exported with a valid permit, and business owners can return them to their manufacturer.
However, any current owners cannot use these guns any longer in the interim, nor can these firearms be imported or sold to individuals in Canada. These guns need to be safely stored, only transferred or transported for the purpose of deactivation or surrendering the gun to police if the owner seeks to do so before the buyback program is in place, Lametti said.
The justice minister said there will be an exception for Indigenous peoples exercising a hunting record under Section 35 of the Constitution Act, which recognizes Indigenous rights; as well as an exception for people who use one of the now-banned guns to hunt to feed themselves or their families, until they can acquire a “suitable replacement.’
“We are asking that no one attempt to surrender their firearm while social distancing because of COVID-19 is being practiced… At the end of the amnesty period, all firearm owners will have to be in compliance with the prohibition,” Lametti said.
The move has been cabinet-approved and the reclassification of these weapons can be done through an order-in-council rather than legislation, though future gun control measures are expected to be introduced.
'MORE THAN THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS'
In the wake of the mass shooting that killed 22 people in Nova Scotia earlier this month, Trudeau had said he intended on pushing ahead with the Liberal election promise of banning military-style assault weapons.
Referencing this month’s Nova Scotia rampage, Trudeau said the victims’ families “deserve more than thoughts and prayers.”
“This chapter in our history cannot be rewritten, but what happens next is up to us. We can stick to thoughts and prayers alone, or we can unite as a country and put an end to this,” Trudeau said on Friday.
On Friday, Trudeau restated his position that guns designed to kill the most people in the shortest amount of time have no place in Canada.
He has previously said that the federal government was “on the verge” of moving ahead on gun control legislation before the pandemic caused Parliament to suspend.
LEGISLATION COMING, TORIES BALK
Expected in future legislation is a buyback program for military-style assault rifles purchased legally in Canada, tougher safe-storage laws, and strengthened penalties for smuggling guns into Canada. The government has also committed to crack down on handguns.
Blair said that the federal government is also going to bring in “red flag laws” allowing law enforcement to remove firearms from dangerous situations.
In the last Parliament, the Liberals made changes to the rules related to firearm ownership, including broadening background checks for gun owners, toughening rules around the transportation of handguns, and increasing record-keeping requirements for the sale of firearms. It also repealed changes made by the previous Conservative government and the federal Tories have vowed to reverse these changes.
Trudeau called Friday’s announcement the “next step” in their gun control policy, and said he’s already spoke with other party leaders about future legislation.
In a statement reacting to the announcement, outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer accused Trudeau of “using the current pandemic and the immediate emotion of the horrific attack in Nova Scotia to push the Liberals’ ideological agenda and make major firearms policy changes. That is wrong.”
Scheer criticized Trudeau for not waiting until the House of Commons resumes full sittings to take up this debate.
“Taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens does nothing to stop dangerous criminals who obtain their guns illegally. The reality is, the vast majority of gun crimes are committed with illegally obtained firearms. Nothing the Trudeau Liberals announced today addresses this problem,” Scheer said in the statement.
Similarly, all four Conservative leadership candidates have spoken out against the Liberal gun restrictions, with Peter MacKay saying that as a Nova Scotian he views the timing as “crass and beyond the pale,” and Erin O’Toole vowing to scrap what he called a “politically motivated ban.”