Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says if he is re-elected next month, he plans to ban assault rifles.
That would include the controversial AR-15 rifle, which has been used in repeated mass shootings over recent years, including those in Parkland and Sandy Hook.
Trudeau made the announcement on Friday morning in Toronto following a walkabout through the Danforth neighbourhood, the site of a 2018 mass shooting that killed two and injured 13 in the midst of a broader spate of gun violence that has gripped Toronto and other urban centres over recent years.
“You don’t need a military-grade assault weapon — one designed to take down the most amount of people in the shortest time — to take down a deer,” Trudeau said in his announcement.
The accompanying press release described the pledge as one to “ban all military-style assault rifles, including the AR-15.”
Trudeau described the move as one “that’s going to work to keep our communities safe.”
Much of the violence domestically, though, has been linked to illicit and smuggled handguns used by gangs.
The Liberals ruled out a ban on handguns earlier this year despite being urged to consider such a move by urban leaders in Toronto and Montreal.
Trudeau was asked by reporters on Friday why he wants to ban assault rifles but not handguns, and the Liberal leader responded by saying the plan introduced also includes a vow to give more powers to municipalities to allow them to restrict or ban handguns within their boundaries.
Additional pledges announced Friday include a promise to “limit the glorification of violence by creating regulations that impact the way firearms are advertised, marketed and sold in Canada,” although it’s not clear at this point what that means.
Trudeau also said a re-elected Liberal government would strengthen safe-storage laws and require proof of a valid firearms licence for anyone importing ammunition into the country. The move would also prevent anyone “suspected of posing a danger to themselves or others” of possessing or acquiring firearms, he said.
Gun control has emerged in recent years as a highly contentious issue facing Canadian policy-makers.
Canada has no right to bear arms, unlike the United States, but there is an active community of gun owners who argue that things like banning assault rifles and changing the rules around safe transport do little to counter the issue of guns and gangs or illicit smuggling.
Trudeau has vowed not to bring back the long-gun registry, but changes to the amount of information gun retailers are required to keep on purchasers — introduced through Bill C-71, which amended firearms legislation in this country earlier this year — prompted accusations from political opponents that he was, in effect, creating another gun registry.
That bill also places new requirements on those doing background checks on potential gun owners to take into account things like an individual’s mental health and whether they have ever been convicted offences like intimate partner violence, drug trafficking or gun violence.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has vowed to repeal it if elected.
He wants to create a Canada Border Services Agency task force to tackle cross-border gun smuggling, revoke parole for individuals associated with gangs and introduce mandatory sentencing for offences related to gang violence and membership.
According to a public opinion survey done by the Angus Reid Institute in May 2019, three-quarters of Canadians support a ban on assault rifles.
Another 60 per cent want to see a ban on handguns.
A ban on assault rifles would put the focus on a class of weapons that isn’t technically defined under the provisions of Canada’s Criminal Code.
Instead, guns in Canada are classified as either prohibited, restricted or non-restricted.
Prohibited firearms include Tasers, guns that can fit in the palm of someone’s hand like the SSS-1 Stinger, automatic firearms including and similar to the AK-47 and most handguns.
The AR-15 and 14 variations fall under the restricted category along with several other semi-automatic weapons.
Non-restricted firearms generally include things like common long guns.
Trudeau’s announcement comes one day after the American weapons manufacturer Colt said it would stop production of the AR-15 for the consumer market, citing lowered demand from the market for the weapon.
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