Nfld. & Labrador

Controversial AR-15 rifle should be legal for hunting, says Corner Brook man

A controversial rifle used in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre would be legal for hunting in Canada if one Corner Brook man has his way.

Petition to House of Commons has over 24,000 signatures

Corner Brook's Marc Bennett has circulated a petition to have the AR-15 rifle legalized for hunting in Canada. (Submittted)

A controversial rifle used in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre would be legal for hunting in Canada if one Corner Brook man has his way.

The AR-15 rifle, which looks like a military-style assault weapon, is now legal only for target practice or use in competitions in Canada. 

Marc Bennett, a hunter who lives in Corner Brook, has petitioned the House of Commons to allow the rifles to be used for hunting.

His e-petition to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness now has over 24,000 signatures. 

Bennett said the rifle was banned for hunting in the 1990's for aesthetic reasons rather than practical ones.

"It's called a restricted firearm because of the way it looks. That is a well known fact in the firearms community in Canada," he said.

"When the government decided to reclassify firearms in the mid-1990s due to École Polytechnique, they literally went through a calibre magazine, pinpointed firearms with their finger, and said 'yeah we'll make that restricted.'"

He said the rifle has many of the same features as guns that are already in use by hunters.

"It functions no more different than thousands of other semi-automatic firearms in Canada that we use for hunting on a daily basis," he said.

"It's a very ergonomically correct firearm. It's light, it's made of modern materials. Just because it's not made of wood doesn't mean it's not a hunting rifle."

If the rifle is approved for hunting, Bennett said users would only need to carry one rifle because the AR-15 is able to easily switch calibres for small game or big game. 

Controversial reputation 

AR-15 rifles have been used in several high profile shootings, including the Sandy Hook massacre and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting in 2012. (Alex Brandon/AP )

Although Bennett espoused the benefits the rifle could bring to law abiding hunters, it's undeniable that the weapon has a certain reputation.

It was one of the weapons carried by James Holmes who shot 12 people to death in a Colorado movie theatre in July 2012.

After sales increased following the December 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, which left 20 children dead at a Connecticut school, a New York Times article described the AR-15 as the most wanted gun in America

"Be educated," said Bennett, who believes that fears of the rifle being used in another shooting are unfounded.

"It has been used in the school shooting but there are only 59 cases of a firearm homicide in the states where an AR–15 was present and not necessarily used — out of 80,000 firearm related homicides."

The rifle's military style appearance also drives fears that it could be modified and made into an automatic weapon, but Bennett isn't convinced.

"It's not that easy to turn it automatic as people think. Law abiding citizens aren't out there to break the law." he said.

"To be honest, there's never been a crime with an AR-15 in Canada."

Hopes Trudeau listens 

With over 24,000 signatures on Bennett's petition, and sponsorship from Bob Zimmer, the MHA for Prince George–Peace River–Northern Rockies, the petition will soon be brought to the House of Commons.

Bennett said he believes that MPs will be given 45 days to decide whether to honour the petition after it's brought forward, and he hopes Trudeau's Liberal government listens. 

"When Trudeau finally got into office, he said that he was going to be more open and put more trust into Canadians for the government to trust them back," he said.

"I think to disregard 24,000 signatures, the most signed petition in Canada, would be sending the wrong message."

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show