The Canadian government is announcing new legislation to increase gun control, including a buy back program for banned “assault-style weapons,” the ability for municipalities to ban handguns, and regulations that make it easier to confiscate guns from someone suspected of being linked to intimate partner violence or bigoted views.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced Bill C-21 Tuesday, which follows up on the government’s ban of 1,500 makes and models of “assault-style” guns from last May. The ban includes AR-15 rifles, used in mass shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland, and the Ruger Mini-14, which was used in the 1989 École Polytechnique shooting.
“You can’t fight gun violence or any violence on just one front,” Trudeau said. “You can’t fight it without addressing its root causes.”
The government did not give specifics about the buy back program and how much it will cost. However, owners of the recently-banned guns who choose not to sell them back to the government will have to get a prohibited gun licence and register with the government indicating how many prohibited guns they have and where they are located. While they will be allowed to keep the firearms, they will not be able to use, sell, trade, transport, or bequeath them.
There is a two-year amnesty period that lasts until April 30, 2022 to give gun owners time to comply with the new rules.
The term “assault weapon” is contentious in the firearms community, with many gun proponents noting it’s not clearly defined. A.J Somerset, author of Arms: the Culture & Credo, previously told VICE World News the best definition is a semi-automatic centrefire rifle with an attachable magazine and a pistol grip. Other semi-automatic rifles remain legal in Canada, even with this ban.
The government also said it will allow municipalities to prohibit the possession and storage of handguns within their borders, something that Toronto city council previously requested; Montreal has called for a national handgun ban. Somerset previously told VICE World News a handgun ban would be difficult to enforce because cities don’t have borders and checkpoints. Calgary-based lawyer Greg Dunn previously told VICE World News gun owners would likely challenge a municipal ban, arguing that it is unconstitutional.
“We're backing up the cities with serious federal and criminal penalties to enforce these bylaws, including jail time for people who violate these municipal rules,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said the government is also introducing red flag laws to allow citizens to petition the court to immediately confiscate firearms from a person suspected of intimate partner violence or advocating for violence towards a religious minority group as well as people who might be suicidal. The new rules will also make it easier to suspend people’s gun licences in those cases, he said.
Currently, Canadians can contact the Chief Firearms Office to make similar reports, however Blair has previously said that the red flag law would make the process of confiscating a gun faster.
The legislation will also provide more resources to police to tackle gun smuggling and increase the penalties for smuggling. The government said the top three ways criminals get guns in Canada is via smuggling, theft, and legal guns that are resold to the black market.
In last year's Throne speech, the Liberal government said it was looking at reforming a criminal justice system that over criminalizes racialized and Indigenous peoples, including more oversight of police forces. However, despite significant social pressure, Trudeau made no mention of defunding police.
Bill C-26 will also provide $250 million over five years to support municipalities, Indigenous communities, and young people in addressing the root causes of crime.
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