Politics

Ottawa extends amnesty on 'assault-style' firearms, says buyback program still in the works

The federal Liberal government is extending its amnesty on "assault-style" firearms until October 2023.

Amnesty on the weapons was set to expire in April

A restricted gun licence holder holds a AR-15 at his home in Langley, B.C., on May 1, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The federal Liberal government is extending its amnesty on "assault-style" firearms until October 2023.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in May 2020 he was banning more than 1,500 models of firearms, including the AR-15.

He also announced owners of these guns would have a two-year amnesty period to come into compliance with the prohibition.

The Liberal government revealed on Wednesday that the order, set to expire in April, would be extended until October 2023.

It says doing so gives officials more time to implement a mandatory buyback program for the firearms.

"My number one priority as minister of Public Safety is keeping Canadians safe, particularly from gun violence," said Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino in a media statement. He said the ban on the weapons and the proposed buyback program are among the "key pillars" of the government's plan to end gun violence.

A prominent gun-control advocacy group says it hopes this is the "first and last" extension of its kind and wants to see the buyback program — promised by the Liberals during the 2019 federal election — introduced as quickly as possible.

"It is important to understand that the May 2020 regulations combined with the mandatory buyback program, while extremely positive, do not represent a complete ban on assault weapons," reads a statement from PolySeSouvient, which includes former students and graduates of Ecole polytechnique, where a gunman shot and killed 14 women in 1989.

"Further legislation is required to ban models that were not covered by the regulations and to prevent manufacturers from introducing new models into the market."

Conservatives call ban 'arbitrary'

The Conservatives have called the firearms ban "arbitrary." The Tories argue the plan does nothing to address the flow of illegal weapons into Canada from the United States.

"The Liberals should scrap their arbitrary firearm ban and their plans for a buyback program and provide those resources to our police officers, border officials, and grassroots youth diversion programs," said MPs Raquel Dancho and Pierre Paul-Hus in a joint statement.

The federal government has implemented a $250 million program called the Building Safer Communities Fund, which does provide funding to local organizations doing work to stop children and youth from joining gangs.

Ottawa announced on Wednesday that $7.3 million from the program will be paid to York Region to address that community's gun violence challenges.

With files from CBC News

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