by Stephen Dafoe
Buying back the 1500 styles of firearms they banned last year, allowing municipalities to ban handguns, and introducing tougher penalties for gun trafficking are among the items in Bill C-21, introduced Feb. 16.
Following on their 2019 election promise and last spring’s Executive Order that saw the banning of approximately 1500 firearms, the Liberals refer to as “assault-style” firearms, the feds announced their long-anticipated buy-back program would be released in the coming months. However, details on the numbers and costs associated with it have yet to be presented.
“One Canadian killed by gun violence is one too many,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “The tragedies we have seen in Ste-Foy and Portapique, and more recently in Toronto and Montréal, should never happen. This is why our government has taken some of the strongest action in our country’s history against gun violence. We will continue to take steps to strengthen gun control measures, remove dangerous weapons from our streets, and make sure everyone can feel safe from violence.”
Shannon Stubbs, Conservative Shadow Minister for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and Richard Martel, Conservative Quebec Political Lieutenant, issued a joint statement on Trudeau’s buy back announcement.
“It is disappointing that during a pandemic, Justin Trudeau is focused on his own re-election and advancing the Liberals’ ideological agenda instead of helping Canadians get vaccines,” the statement reads.
The two Conservative politicians cite the Liberals’ opposition and defeat of Conservative Bill C-238, which would have imposed harsher sentences for criminals smuggling or in possession of illegal firearms, as evidence the Liberals are not serious about stopping criminals from getting illegal guns.
“The reality is, the vast majority of gun crimes are committed with illegally obtained firearms,” the statement goes on. “Taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens does nothing to stop dangerous criminals and gangs who obtain their guns illegally.”
“Assault-Style” weapons the target
For non-firearms owners, the “assault rifle” terminology can be confusing. An assault rifle is a rifle that has selective-fire capability allowing the weapon to fire in bursts or automatic mode. These firearms, long prohibited under Canadian law already because of select-fire ability, are not the same as the “assault-syle” firearms banned last May and now about to be repurchased by the government at an as yet unknown cost. None of the guns banned in 2020 have select-fire capability, the defining characteristic of an assault rifle.
Citing gun violence across the country and the use of firearms in 40 per cent of 2019 homicides, Trudeau announced plans Tuesday to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, which he says will make communities safer while respecting law-abiding gun owners.
Changes include “red flag” and “yellow flag” laws. These would allow concerned friends or relatives to apply to the courts to remove an individual’s firearms immediately. it would also let them ask a Chief Firearms Officer to suspend and review an individual’s licence to own firearms.
Trudeau also plans to increase penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking and support municipalities that ban handguns through bylaws restricting storage and transportation in their jurisdictions. Those municipal bylaws would then be subject to federal penalties, including licence revocation and criminal sanctions.
The fed’s buy-back program will be introduced in the coming months to, the feds say, ensure previously banned guns are out of the hands of owners.
In a move to close gaps in the law, the Minister of Justice will also conduct a review of firearms classification as well as take a look at modernizing language in the regulation and the Criminal Code regarding prohibited weapons, devices, and ammunition.
The Conservatives called on the Liberal government Tuesday to ensure that Canada’s firearms legislation is based on evidence, not on ideology.