On May 1, less than two weeks after Canada’s worst mass shooting to date, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a ban on military-style assault weapons.
“These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only — to kill the largest amount of people in the shortest amount of time,” he told the public during his daily COVID-19 briefing.
Trudeau clarified that the ban would only apply to those most dangerous weapons which have been used in killing sprees like that of École Polytechnique in 1989, the Moncton shootings in 2014, and most recently the Nova Scotia shootings on April 18 and 19.
“The vast majority of gun owners use them safely, responsible and in accordance with the law,” said Trudeau. “But you don't need an AR-15 to bring down a deer.”
A list issued by the government bans over 1,500 models. This includes M16, AR-10 and AR-15 rifles, as well as M4 carbines. Combined, this accounts for over 100,000 guns across Canada that were previously “restricted.”
But the government doesn’t know exactly how many “unrestricted” guns exist in the country that will now be banned, like Ruger Mini-14s, and M14 rifles. This lack of registration is due to the abolition of the Long Gun Registry under the federal Conservative government in 2012.
On top of that, not all of those guns will be confiscated. Many current owners will be able to keep their guns due to grandfathering laws set out by the government.
“You can possess certain prohibited firearms if you had one registered in your name when it became prohibited,” explains the government's firearms website.
Trudeau told the public that current owners of the now-banned guns would have a two-year amnesty period, during which there will be legislation created to coordinate the buy-back of these guns.
“The government intends to implement a buy-back program to compensate affected owners for the value of their firearms after they are delivered to a police officer,” says the government’s analysis statement on the new law.
The law will, however, make it totally illegal to sell or buy any new guns that fall into the category.
“Today we are closing the market on military-grade assault weapons in Canada,” said Trudeau in French.
In Nova Scotia, there are only six shipping companies that were previously permitted to transport these weapons.
Although police believe he obtained them illegally, Trudeau said the new law will make it harder for any Canadian to acquire a dangerous weapon.
“Every one of us remembers the day when we realized that even in Canada a man with a gun could irrevocably alter our lives for the worse,” Trudeau said.
In Canada, the estimated number of firearms owned per 100 civilians was 34.7 in 2017, compared to 120 in the United States (yes, that’s more guns than people), according to the Small Arms Survey.
Across the country, gun fiends took to social media to mourn the loss of their beloved weapons. Among them was Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay, who took to Twitter to call out Trudeau.
“As a Nova Scotian I’m outraged that Justin Trudeau is using this tragedy to punish law-abiding firearms owners across Canada,” MacKay said in a video.
In response, his fellow Nova Scotians got pretty riled up about his lack of sensitivity around the issue.
Read the room. Assault-style rifles. Our fellow Nova Scotians were just killed with one of these. A weapon designed to kill the most amount of people in the least amount of time. This is not for deer hunting. This is for hunting people. Put aside the politics. Do the right thing.— Lyne (@lynesworld) May 1, 2020
I don’t usually comment on partisan issues, but how could he put this out after what N.S. has just endured. https://t.co/eYFT7X500y— Tim Outhit (@TimOuthit) May 1, 2020
As a Nova Scotian who is all for responsible gun ownership, I applaud this ban and am disgusted that you're using this tragedy to try to score political points while cozying up to gun lobby extremists.— Riverside Redhead (@elliottkrista) May 1, 2020
The government is expected to release more details in the coming weeks on how to compensate those who are handing over their guns.