Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau makes a policy announcement promising to ban all military-style assault rifles as part of a broader gun-control plan that will also take steps towards restricting and banning handguns in Toronto on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Feds ban more than 1,500 assault-style rifles in Canada

There will be a two-year amnesty period, federal officials say

The federal government has announced it will be banning 1,500 types of assault-style rifles, including the type used in the 1989 mass shooting in Montreal.

“They don’t belong in our communities,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said during a news conference on Friday (May 1).

The ban includes guns that have been used in past Canadian shootings, such as the Ruger Mini-14 which was used in the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in Montreal in 1989, the M14 semi-automatic which was used in the 2014 Moncton shooting, the Beretta CX4 Storm which was used in the Dawson College shooting and the CSA-VZ-58 which the gunman attempted to use in the Quebec Mosque shooting.

During the fall election campaign, the Liberals said guns designed to inflict multiple human casualties have no place in Canada.

“As a Montrealer but also as a father of two daughters and family member of a Polytechnique student, I can tell you that the shooting of 14 young women in École Polytechnique is very fresh in our collective memory, even 30 years later,” Attorney General David Lametti said.

Owners of legally purchased firearms that fall under the ban would be offered fair-market prices through a buyback program.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday there will be a two-year amnesty period for gun owners to give them time to comply with the ban.

“We ask that no one attempt to surrender their firearm while social distancing of COVID-19 is being practised,” Lametti continued.

Trudeau said Thursday there is a “large consensus” among Canadians who want less violence and fewer deaths from firearms.

“There is no need in Canada for guns designed to kill the largest amount of people in the shortest amount of time,” he said during a news briefing on a number of issues.

“We will have more to say on this when we make an announcement around what we’re doing to strengthen gun control in the coming days.”

The government was almost ready to introduce measures to outlaw specific guns, including the popular AR-15 rifle, when Parliament suspended in March because of COVID-19, Trudeau said.

It also plans to empower provinces and cities to take steps to manage the storage and use of handguns within their individual jurisdictions, given that they have different concerns.

Trudeau has faced renewed questions about the pledges following the recent deadly shootings by a Nova Scotia gunman.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has come under pressure to move quickly on measures that do not require legislation — now even more of a factor given the severely curtailed parliamentary agenda due to the novel coronavirus.

The group PolySeSouvient, which includes students and graduates of Ecole Polytechnique, urged Blair in November to take action.

Opponents of the federal plan to outlaw some guns also question the federal timetable.

“If this was an urgent public safety issue, why did Bill Blair and the Liberal party insist on waiting until after the 2019 federal election to even contemplate seizing and destroying these guns?” the Canadian Shooting Sports Association asked last month.

The Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association tweeted Thursday the public should be concerned about “this overstepping of emergency powers” to advance an election agenda during a national crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news briefing Thursday that stricter gun control is an absolute priority that cannot wait.

“This was one of the key planks in our election campaign, and we received a strong mandate from Canadians to act on gun control. This was our intention and it is our intention,” she said.

“I felt, as someone knocking on doors during the election campaign, this is something Canadians are ready for and they want, and we are going to deliver very soon.”

More to come.

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