Canada has banned assault-style weapons following the murder of 22 people in the worst mass shooting in the country’s history, Justin Trudeau announced on Friday. “These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. There is no use and no place for such weapons in Canada,” said the prime minister. “Effective immediately, it is no longer permitted to buy, sell, transport, import or use military-grade assault weapons in this country.”
After the Nova Scotia shooting last week, Trudeau said his government intended “strengthen gun control” to fulfil a campaign promise to restrict certain weapons – a plan that had initially been derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
12 hours of terror: how the Nova Scotia shooting rampage unfolded
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on Tuesday that the Nova Scotia gunman, Gabriel Wortman, had been armed with two semi-automatic rifles and several semi-automatic pistols. Supt Darren Campbell said that one of the guns could be described “military-style assault rifle”. The new ban would probably not have stopped Wortman from obtaining his weapons: he did not have a license to possess or purchase firearms, and police have said they believe the guns were obtained illegally in Canada and the United States. The prime minister announced a two-year “amnesty period” to allow gun owners to comply with the law. The ban covers 1,500 models and variants of firearms.
Canada has one of the highest per capita gun ownership rates in the world, at an estimated 34.7 firearms per 100 people, according to the Small Arms Survey in 2018. The country still trails far behind the US, which has close to 120 guns per 100 people. While Trudeau promised in 2015 that a Liberal government would make it more difficult for gun owners to acquire certain types of firearms, it wasn’t until the most recent election campaign that the prime minister promised a full ban on “military-style assault weapons” if re-elected. “As long as Canadians are losing their loved ones to gun violence, not enough has changed,” Trudeau said in September. “We know you do not need a military-grade assault weapon, one designed to kill the largest amount of people in the shortest amount of time, to take down a deer.”
At present, the Firearms Act does not make a distinction between “military-style” weapons and other type of long guns – meaning the government would also need to add amend the law. Trudeau had also previously promised to ban the Ruger Mini-14 rifle, the weapon used in the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique shooting in Montreal, in which 14 women were murdered. The move to heavily restrict access to certain firearms will probably prompt anger from the opposition Conservative party and Canada’s gun lobby – but a ban of certain weapons can be carried out through cabinet, bypassing the need for legislation.
“Justin Trudeau is using the current pandemic and the immediate emotion of the horrific attack in Nova Scotia to push the Liberals’ ideological agenda to make major firearms policy changes,” said the Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, following Trudeau’s comments. “Taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens does nothing to stop dangerous criminals who obtain their guns illegally.” Ken Price, whose daughter Samantha was hurt in a 2018 mass shooting in Toronto in which two people were killed and 13 injured, said he was “pleased to see movement” on the issue. “Having weapons that can be configured so that they inflict massive damage just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do – nor is it reflective of what the average Canadian wants,” he said. “And this still leaves plenty of choice for hunters, fishermen and sport shooters.”
Price said Canada should also tighten controls on handguns and introduce “red flag laws” – enabling authorities to remove firearms from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others – but said he was “pleased to see movement” on assault weapons. An “overwhelming majority” majority of Canadians – nearly four out of five people – support the ban, according to a poll from the Angus Reid Institute, released Friday.
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