Photo: The Canadian Press
A restricted arms license holder holds an AR-15 at his home in Langley, BC on May 1, 2020. The Liberals say their proposed definition of a prohibited assault firearm only applies to weapons that belong on the battlefield.
The Liberals say their proposed definition of a prohibited assault-type firearm applies only to weapons that belong on the battlefield.
But Conservative MPs continued to insist on Thursday that the federal move would ban large numbers of standard hunting rifles and shotguns.
The Liberal government wants to include an evergreen definition of a prohibited assault-style firearm in gun control legislation being examined by the House of Commons public safety committee.
The measure, introduced Tuesday during a clause-by-clause review of the bill, would build on a May 2020 legislative ban on more than 1,500 models and variants of what the government considers assault-style firearms, such as the AR-15 and Ruger Mini-14.
Among other technical specifications, the proposed definition includes a centerfire semi-automatic rifle or shotgun designed to accept a detachable magazine capable of holding more than five rounds.
At a committee meeting Thursday, Liberal MP Pam Damoff said the definition would codify into the Criminal Code the types of firearms banned in 2020, providing a “clear definition of the specifications of these weapons that were designed for war.”
“I just want to make it clear that we are not going after hunters,” Damoff said. “We seek to remove weapons designed for the battlefield from our society.”
She said the change would ensure gun manufacturers can’t adapt designs of banned firearms to make them available in Canada again. “Codification and clear definitions in the Criminal Code will ensure that manufacturers cannot try to game the system to continue selling weapons that under any other name would be prohibited.”
Conservative MP Glen Motz said the definition would effectively ban hundreds of thousands of firearms, including many non-restricted weapons.
“I think it was a deliberate attempt to mislead the Canadian public and mislead Parliament,” he said.
Raquel Dancho, the Conservative public safety critic, said the proposed definition casts a very wide net — the “most significant hunting rifle ban in Canadian history.”
“If the Liberals had any integrity they would have brought this up in the original bill so it could have been debated in Parliament,” she said.
“But of course they didn’t.” During the hearing, the Liberal Party published an updated list of around 300 pages of the different models and variants of firearms that would now be banned.
In response, provincial ministers from Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan issued a joint statement condemning Ottawa’s move.
The federal effort to define an assault-style firearm responds to pleas from advocates for tougher gun laws, who wanted such wording enshrined in law.
Gun control group PolySeSouvient has called the proposed amendment “another critical step toward a comprehensive and permanent ban on assault weapons in Canada.”