The Dark History of the Gun Model Used in the Innisfil Shooting

The semi-automatic rifle used to kill two South Simcoe police officers on Tuesday night carries a « bloody record », according to a Canadian gun control expert.

The province’s Special Investigations Unit confirmed this week that investigators recovered the Soviet-designed SKS rifle from the scene.

It remains unclear whether the SKS was legally owned and whether police knew the 23-year-old shooter was armed.

SKS has figured in firearm deaths in Canada for decades. In the summer of 2019, it was the weapon involved in a week-long manhunt across the country after two teenagers killed three travelers in northern British Columbia.

However, the SKS was excluded from the list of more than 1,500 semi-automatic weapons that the federal Liberal government banned from sale, import or use in May 2020. It is also unrestricted, which means that , unlike many other semi-automatic weapons, owners do not. must register the weapon with the RCMP.

« If you have a basic gun license, anyone can buy it, » says Blake Brown, author of « Arming and Disarming the Nation: A History of Gun Control in Canada. »

« We don’t really know how many there are or who has them, » continued Brown, a history professor at St. Mary’s University. « But they were used in quite a few shoots. » Including, in recent years, multiple incidents that have resulted in the deaths of Canadian police officers.

The petrol rifle, finished with a polished wooden stock, is noted for its weight and folding bayonet. Although originally made in the Soviet Union, the model was later produced in China and other countries. Guns finally came into circulation in Canada in the 1990s and can now be purchased online for between $400 and $700.

The attached magazine, sometimes referred to as a stripper clip, is limited to 10 rounds, but those sold in Canada are modified to hold only five rounds, the maximum legal amount for centerfire semi-automatic long guns.

However, it’s fairly easy to reverse this change, according to Rod Giltaca, CEO and Executive Director of the Canadian Coalition for Gun Rights.

He also said the SKS rifle closely resembles the semi-automatic pistols that the federal government chose to ban.

« The rate of fire of any semi-automatic is the same, » Giltaca said. « It’s as fast as you can pull the trigger. »

The Liberal government determined which firearms to ban based on three factors: sustained rapid-fire capability, modern design, and high ownership.

When the ban was announced in the spring of 2020, those who possessed the banned weapons were given a two-year amnesty to comply with the new law. This grace period was extended earlier this year until October 2023.

The government has promised to start buying back the weapons it banned in 2020 before the end of this year.

According to Heidi Rathjen, survivor of the 1989 Polytechnique massacre and longtime gun control advocate, the SKS did not make the list because of its old design, a reason she said was « absolutely arbitrary ».

« It’s still not an assault weapons ban, » said Rathjen, a representative for gun advocacy group PolySeSouvient.

« It’s a list of prohibited weapons. »

However, she hopes that Marco Mendicino, Federal Minister of Public Safety, will eventually introduce a complete ban on all assault weapons, a to promise she said the minister did when he announced Bill C-21 on May 30.

Bill C-21 would prevent the purchase, sale, transfer or import of handguns, although people who already legally own handguns can still use them.

—with files from Alyshah Hasham, Stephanie Levitz and The Canadian Press


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