Federal MPs debate definition of an assault weapon

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Liberals say their proposed definition of a prohibited assault-type firearm only applies to firearms that belong on the battlefield.

However, Tory MPs continue to insist that the federal decision would ban many shotguns and rifles.

The Liberal government wants to include a permanent definition of a prohibited assault weapon in gun control legislation being considered by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety.

The measure, introduced Tuesday during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, would build on a federal regulatory ban on many types of firearms in May 2020. It includes more than 1,500 models, such as the AR- 15 and the Ruger Mini-14.

Among other technical specifications, the definition includes a semi-automatic rifle or shotgun designed to accept a detachable magazine that can hold more than five rounds.

During a committee meeting on Thursday, Liberal MP Pam Damoff said the definition would codify in the Criminal Code the types of firearms that were banned in 2020, providing a “clear definition of the specifications of those weapons designed for the war”.

“I just want to clarify that we do not pursue hunters, added Ms. Damoff. We seek to remove weapons designed for the battlefield from our society.”

She said the amendment would ensure that firearms manufacturers cannot alter the design of prohibited firearms to make them available again in Canada. “Codification and clear definitions in the Criminal Code will ensure that manufacturers cannot attempt to circumvent the system to continue selling weapons that under any other name would be prohibited,” she explained.

Tory MP Glen Motz hammered home that the definition would effectively ban hundreds of thousands of firearms, including many non-restricted firearms.

“I think it was a deliberate attempt to mislead the Canadian public and to mislead Parliament,” he said.

Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho added that the definition amounts to the largest shotgun ban in Canadian history.

“If the Liberals had shown integrity, they would have introduced it in the original bill and then it could have been debated in the House,” she said. But of course they didn’t.”

During the hearing, the Liberals released an updated list of about 300 pages of the different models of firearms and their variants that would now be prohibited.

In response, the provincial ministers of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan issued a joint statement denouncing Ottawa’s decision.

The federal effort to define an assault weapon comes in response to calls from advocates for tougher gun laws to have that wording enshrined in law.

The group PolySeSouvient called the proposed amendment “another critical step towards a comprehensive and permanent ban on assault weapons in Canada.”


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