O'Toole amends platform on gun control, but questions remain about what change means

·3 min read
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole edited his party's election platform Monday, saying that while he will repeal an order-in-council banning 1,500 firearms, those firearms would remain banned during a review of the firearm classification system.  (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole edited his party's election platform Monday, saying that while he will repeal an order-in-council banning 1,500 firearms, those firearms would remain banned during a review of the firearm classification system. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole has edited his party's election platform, adding language to reflect his recent decision to tweak his direction mid-campaign on the banning and regulation of some firearms, but the revision leaves several questions unanswered.

The Conservatives' platform unveiled by O'Toole at the start of the election campaign pledges to kick off a Tory government by repealing C-71 and the May 2020 order-in-council that banned some 1,500 makes and models of what the government describes as "military-grade weapons."

O'Toole backtracked on that statement this week, saying that he would keep the ban on assault weapons.

"It's critically important for me to say to Canadians today that we are going to maintain the ban on assault weapons, we're going to maintain the restrictions that were put in place in 2020," he said.

Along with maintaining the ban, O'Toole said that he would launch a public review of the firearm classification system.

Today, the Conservatives added a footnote to that campaign pledge to repeal C-71 and the order-in-council, saying that "all firearms that are currently banned will remain banned."

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Monday, O'Toole said the review of the system used for classification of firearms would be carried out by gun users, gun manufacturers, law enforcement and members of the public.

Bill C-71 overhauled the background check system, imposed new record-keeping requirements for retailers as well as further restrictions on transporting a firearm.

The Conservatives railed against the law, claiming it imposes onerous regulations on lawful gun owners while doing little to crack down on gang-related crime largely carried out with illegal firearms sourced from the U.S.

Questions remain about O'Toole's new position

The banning of some 1,500 firearms by the Trudeau government was enacted through regulations approved by an order-in-council from cabinet — not through legislation.

If an O'Toole government would immediately repeal that order-in-council, it remains unclear how the guns affected by the order would remain banned when the order banning them has been repealed.

It also remains unclear how the guns would remain banned if O'Toole plans to hold a review of the process for deciding which guns should be banned and which should not.

O'Toole was asked if he would keep the 1,500 guns banned even if his planned review said the guns should all be made legal once again, O'Toole said he would not commit to a position.

"I'm not going to pre-judge that process, because I should not be running that process. It should be a process that allows for a transparent review to remove the politics out of this," O'Toole said Monday.

O'Toole's decision to amend his platform appears to be a departure from a long held position.

During the May 2020 leadership race for the Conservative Party, O'Toole described the order-in-council as an "undemocratic" act "by the Trudeau government pledging to reverse it and repeal C-71 as well.

"I am going to commit to repealing the Firearms Act and fixing the classification system once and for all," O'Toole said in a video speech to the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights.

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