The newly tabled federal legislation that would see sweeping gun control measures across Canada is a move a leading expert on Charter rights says is “necessary and wouldn’t infringe on the rights of lawful gun owners.”
The buyback program has been launched on Wednesday for what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as “assault” or “assault-style” firearms.
The buyback program is part of a suite of new gun control measures promised by the federal Liberals in the 2019 election campaign, and follows the announcement of an executive order last May that changed the classification listings to prohibit roughly 1,500 “assault-style” weapons.
In the eyes of a national expert on the Canadian Charter of Righters and Freedoms, stricter gun control measures, including a ban on assault-style weapons, are long overdue.
While terms like “assault-style” and “assault rifle” are not legal classifications in Canada, they are frequently used colloquially by gun control advocates and the government to describe the type of high-capacity, quick-fire guns targeted by the ban.
“I think it’s really an important initative to take given tragedies like Portapique, and the shooting at mosques and the earlier École Polytechnique, these kind of terrible things should not be happening,” said Schulich School of Law Professor Emeritus Wayne MacKay.
In the week following the mass shooting in Nova Scotia — in which 22 people were killed using illegally-purchased weapons, including one gun that RCMP described as a military-style assault rifle — Ottawa announced plans to ban more than 1,500 models of assault-style firearms.
“You don’t arrest your way out those problems, that’s not how we solve this. Certainly, law enforcement and dealing with the people that commit these violent acts is necessary,” said Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
The legislation will also allow municipalities to ban handguns through bylaws restricting their possession, storage and transportation. Trudeau said the measures will be backed up with serious penalties to enforce these bylaws, including jail time for people who violate municipal rules.
Public affairs adviser Maggie-Jane Spray of Halifax Regional Municipality said HRM looks forward to reviewing the new measures.
“The creation of any new by-laws would be at the direction of Regional Council,” Spray said in an e-mail.
Blair said that the new legislation doesn’t take aim at law abiding gun owners and that it’s primary objective is to reduce the ways criminals gain access to guns that result in lethal outcomes.
“They’re either smuggled across the border from the United States and they have an awful lot of guns down there. Or, they’re stolen from legal gun owners, or somebody criminally diverts them, they buy them legally and then sell them illegally,” said Blair.
The proposed legislation comes with a two-year transition period where owners of newly prohibited firearms can sell their guns back to the government.
If they don’t and their weapon is used in a crime, they will be held responsible, Blair says.
“I think it’s narrowly focused enough, focused on these assault-type weapons that really there aren’t going to be many people’s valid rights removed, in my opinion,” said MacKay.
— With files from Amanda Connolly
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