Liberals hope to ban firearms used in Polytechnique, Dawson College shootings: sources

The federal government is poised to ban some types of firearms — and those new prohibitions could be made public as soon as Friday, sources told Radio-Canada.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has a list of 11 firearms he wants to see banned

A rifle owner checks the sight of his rifle at a hunting camp property in rural Ontario, west of Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The federal Liberal government is poised to ban some types of firearms — and those new prohibitions could be made public as soon as Friday, sources told Radio-Canada.

The gun control changes come in the wake of Nova Scotia's recent tragedy, which saw an armed man kill 22 people and leave others wounded. The gunman, who was not licensed to possess firearms, used guns illegally obtained in Canada and from U.S. sources.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has drawn up a list of firearms that he is recommending be banned in Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is now reviewing that list, sources said. Trudeau's final approval could come any day now, according to the French-language division of CBC.

According to a document obtained by Radio-Canada, the list includes:

  • M16, M4, AR-10 and AR-15 rifles. Those styles were used in the Sandy Hook, New Zealand, Las Vegas and Orlando mass shootings. There are an estimated 83,572 in Canada.
  • Ruger Mini-14s, the type of firearm used in the École Polytechnique shooting. There are an estimated 16,859 in Canada.
  • Swiss Arms Classic Green carbines. There are an estimated 1,342 in Canada.
  • M14 rifles, used in the Moncton shooting. There are an estimated 5,229 in Canada.
  • Vz. 58 semi-automatic rifles, used in the Quebec City mosque shooting. There are an estimated 11,593 in Canada.
  • CZ Scorpion EVO 3 carbines. There are an estimated 1,813 in Canada.
  • Beretta CX4 Storm carbines, the type of firearm used in the Dawson College shooting. There are an estimated 1,513 in Canada.
  • Sig Sauer MCX and Sig MPX carbines and pistols. There are an estimated 1,000 in Canada.
  • Robinson Arms XCR rifles. There are an estimated 1,834 in Canada.

The list also includes two categories of firearms the government hopes to ban:

  • Firearms with a calibre (gun barrel diameter) of more than 20 mm. For example, a grenade launcher. 
  • Firearms capable of producing muzzle energy of more than 10,000 joules.

The list does not include handguns. Blair has said the government will legislate new powers for municipalities to enact their own restrictions on handguns.

If enacted, the bans would be imposed through an order-in-council — a cabinet decree — not legislation, sources said. Parliament's attention is entirely on the pandemic right now. The government could still introduce gun control legislation down the line when the current limits on parliamentary work are lifted.

While in opposition, the Liberals criticized former prime minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet for reclassifying some firearms to a lower category — from restricted to non-restricted — through regulations. The Liberals said at the time that such classifications should be made by the police and experts, not politicians.

The Liberal Party promised in the last election campaign to ban "military-style assault weapons," saying such firearms have no place in Canada.

"On the issue of guns, one thing I can say is that not enough has changed," Trudeau said at a Sept. 20 campaign event.

"Don't get me wrong. We did take meaningful steps to address gun violence. But as long as Canadians are losing their loved ones to gun violence, not enough has changed."

Liberal gun control election promises:

  • Ban military-style assault weapons, including the AR-15.
  • Establish a buy-back program for all military-style assault weapons legally purchased in Canada.
  • Work with the provinces and territories to give municipalities the ability to further restrict or ban firearms.

The RCMP confirmed Tuesday that at least one of the firearms used in the Nova Scotia shooting could be described as an "assault-style" firearm. The Firearms Act does not currently classify firearms as "military-style" — that term would have to be defined in the new regulations.

Gun control advocates have been calling on the Liberal government to follow the New Zealand example. That country's prime minister moved swiftly after the deadly Christchurch mosque massacre, banning certain firearms and enacting a buyback program.

The federal government has estimated the cost of a buyback program at roughly $250 million, although some experts have suggested the number could be much higher.

Critics of this sort of ban maintain it will do little to stop crimes like those committed by the Nova Scotia shooter as criminals will still turn to the black market for weapons. They say the ban will penalize lawful gun owners by burdening them with what they call ineffectual regulations.

'Purely political'

Rod Giltaca, executive director of the Canadian Coalition of Firearm Rights, said the Nova Scotia massacre should not be used by the prime minister as an excuse to changes the firearms regime.

"No aspect of this unthinkable tragedy bears any connection to firearm regulations in Canada. Thus, the implied connection is purely political," he said.

Gun control advocates maintain the ban will reduce the number of dangerous weapons in Canada — which will in turn help prevent the diversion of firearms from lawful owners to criminals.

While Trudeau is pushing ahead with more gun control, his government still hasn't enacted amendments to the Firearms Act that were passed by Parliament last year.

As CBC News reported last week, at least 30 changes to the Firearms Act are still pending.

The legislation in question, then known as Bill C-71, made consequential amendments to the firearms regime and was passed into law in May 2019.

A spokesperson for Blair said Bill C-71 provisions will come into force "once the necessary administrative changes have been made, funding has been approved and the associated regulations have been tabled in Parliament for review."


John Paul Tasker

Senior writer

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

With files from Radio-Canada's Louis Blouin

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