Canada Plans to Ban Assault-Style Rifles Following Nova Scotia Shooting

AR-15s will be among the guns banned in the wake of Canada's deadliest mass shooting, but an expert said the policy has big loopholes.
Manisha Krishnan
Toronto, Canada
April 30, 2020, 7:39pm
Canada assault weapons ban
Canada will ban some semi-automatic rifles including the AR-15. Photos by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press and Charles Krupa/Associated Press 

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

The federal government plans to ban several assault-style weapons that have been used in mass shootings, but one gun expert says the policy has major loopholes.

According to the Globe and Mail, the Liberals will soon lay out a list of guns they plan to ban, including AR-15 rifles which have been used in mass shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland. They also plan to ban Ruger Mini-14s, used in the 1989 École Polytechnique shooting; VZ58 semi-automatic rifles, used in the 2017 Quebec mosque shooting before the shooter switched to a handgun; and M14 rifles, used in the 2014 Moncton shooting.

News of the restrictions comes two weeks after a gunman killed 22 people in Nova Scotia, both by shooting them and setting their homes on fire. Police have said the shooter had pistols and long-guns, but did not access them legally.

Canada’s firearms regulations classify guns into three categories: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. The ban would make some assault-style weapons prohibited.

The terms “assault weapon” and “assault rifle” often conjure up debate, with some gun proponents arguing that the terms are meaningless and used to fear-monger.

A.J. Somerset, the London, Ontario-based author of Arms: the Culture & Credo of the Gun, said the best definition of an assault-style weapon is a semi-automatic centerfire rifle with an attachable magazine and a pistol grip.

Somerset said the government’s bans won’t actually eliminate all guns that fall into that category, though. So while AR-15s will become prohibited, he said the Tavor, another semi-automatic rifle that uses the same ammo, will remain “unrestricted.”

“You’ve got a rifle that’s prohibited and you have another rifle that’s functionally the same and it’s non-restricted,” he said.

He said it would make more sense to change the Criminal Code to ban guns based on their actual characteristics, rather than just banning the most notorious firearms.

After the Christchurch mosque shootings, New Zealand banned centerfire rifles with a detachable magazine or a fixed magazine greater than five.

While Somerset said that ban may have been “too expansive,” it’s more consistent than what Canada is doing.

The Liberals actions will make good on their 2019 election promises to tighten gun control, which also included allowing municipalities to ban handguns and creating a buyback program for banned guns.

Somerset said the fact that the imminent ban doesn’t address handguns is another gap, because handguns are the “logical substitute” for someone who wants to carry out a mass shooting.

VICE has previously reported on why a municipal handgun ban may not be effective, in part because cities don’t have borders or checkpoints.

There is also a lack of good data on the source of crime guns in Canada.

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