Revamped Liberal attempt to ban assault-style firearms would apply to future models

·2 min read

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is proposing a ban on assault-style firearms that would apply once legislation now before Parliament comes into force.

Under the scheme, the government would make regulations through the Firearms Act to ensure that guns are classified correctly before entering the Canadian market.

It also plans to recreate a firearms advisory committee of interested groups and individuals that will make recommendations on the classification of guns now on the market.

The Liberals withdrew a gun bill amendment in February that would have spelled out in law the various models to fall under an assault-style firearm ban.

They had touted the definition as an evergreen measure that would cement in legislation a May 2020 regulatory ban of some 1,500 firearm models and variants, as well as 482 others flagged subsequently.

The government pulled the measure after weeks of criticism from Conservative MPs and some firearm advocates who said the definition would prohibit many commonly used hunting rifles and shotguns.

Gun-control advocates said the effort was clouded by confusing language and misleading or erroneous claims from opponents.

After several days of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino outlined the revamped federal approach Monday. "We're here today because this is a government that does what it takes to keep Canadians safe," he told reporters.

Prominent gun-control group PolySeSouvient swiftly denounced the plan, accusing the government of proposing a watered-down definition that would apply only to future models and could be easily circumvented.

It also expressed dismay that the government is dropping its plan to ban the additional 482 assault-style models identified last year, leaving them in circulation and available for purchase.

In terms of scope, the newly proposed definition of assault-style firearm is largely similar to the one that was withdrawn. It would include a firearm that is not a handgun that discharges centre-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner and that was originally designed with a detachable magazine with a capacity of six cartridges or more.

However, the definition would cover only firearms designed and manufactured after the bill, known as C-21, comes into force. It would not affect the classification of existing firearms in the Canadian market, the government says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2023.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press