Trudeau announces ban on assault rifles as part of gun control promise
OTTAWA - In a much anticipated policy announcement on Friday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he would implement a ban on military-style assault rifles and leave restrictions on handguns up to the provinces, should his government be re-elected on October 21.
He made the statement in the riding of Toronto Danforth, home of the Greektown neighbourhood where two people were killed and 13 were injured in a mass shooting last July.
"We know you do not need a military-grade assault weapon designed to kill the largest amount of people in the shortest amount of time to kill a deer," said Trudeau. "It’s time to end gun violence in Canada and that’s what a re-elected Liberal government will strive to do."
Trudeau was flanked by the riding’s Liberal candidate Julie Dabrusin, as well as Beaches—East York candidate Nate Erskine-Smith, whose canvasser Reese Fallon was killed in the Danforth shooting.
"This is an issue that has deeply affected our community,” Erskine-Smith told CTVNews.ca. “It’s deeply affected our young Liberals in the East End. I was happy this morning to have one of Reese’s best friends – another young Liberal – join me this morning.”
The Liberals will also introduce a reimbursement plan, in which owners of assault rifles like the AR-15 will be offered fair market price for their weapons.
In a follow-up scrum with reporters, Bill Blair, the minister responsible for tackling organized crime – and the former Toronto police chief – said they included this “buyback” pillar in their policy proposal after consultations with gun owners that a ban on their rifles would leave them with no re-sale power.
"I said ‘what if we purchase it back from you?’ They said ‘that’s fair,’ and that’s what we’re doing."
In an interview with CTV’s Question Period prior to Parliament’s summer recess, Blair said he was considering issuing a federal order to implement a national handgun ban.
While the party didn’t go as far as to outright ban handguns, they are leaving it to the provinces and territories to work with municipalities to initiate further restrictions.
"What we are proposing is empowering municipalities to make decisions to enact regulation which is appropriate to their circumstances," said Blair.
Erskine-Smith has written publicly and called alongside families affected by the Danforth shooting for a ban on the private possession of handguns – the weapon used in the Danforth shooting.
"We already have rules that you can only use a handgun at a licensed facility, my view is that they should then be stored at that licensed facility," said Erskine-Smith to CTVNews.ca.
He said he’ll be seeking clarity from his colleagues on whether if cities do opt-in to the handgun ban, it constitutes an all-encompassing prohibition or simply changes to storage and use.
For more than a year now, Toronto’s Mayor John Tory has been calling for a handgun ban following a spike in gun violence and homicides over the course of the last several years.
Responding to the news at a press conference on Friday afternoon, the mayor said it was a “step in the right direction” and that Toronto would "explore what a city-wide handgun ban would look like" if the Liberals formed government.
However, he added "We will not stop continuing to advocate – as overwhelmingly endorsed by the Toronto City Council – for a national handgun ban."
In an interview with CTVNews.ca, Tracey Wilson, the vice-president of public relations for the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, said she’s "disappointed" and also puzzled by the Liberals’ lack of classification on what "military-grade assault rifles" stipulates.
"There has been a variety of different terminologies used. That’s a problem in and of itself," said Wilson. "I also find it interesting that there was no announcement about anything to work on actual crime. This was strictly how we can further regulate Canada’s most regulated citizens."
The federal government’s engagement paper on reducing violent crime, titled “A Dialogue on Handguns and Assault Weapons,” states that “assault weapon” is not a legally-defined term under Canada’s firearm legislation. [ we should link to the paper if a link exists ]
To that end, Wilson said clarity would have been welcome. She added her hunting rifle looks and functions just like her AR-15, but it’s non-restricted because it’s not called an "AR-15."
"If they’re deciding which guns they’re going to kick down my door in and take, they’re going to need to define them,” she said. “We’re treading in funny waters here when we’re talking about a ban on something that has yet to be defined."
With regards to the Liberals’ buyback revision to the traditional “grandfathering” model, which allows gun owners to keep their weapons until confiscated upon death, she cautioned the hefty price tag that might accompany it.
"There have been some estimates that it would cost over two billion dollars to purchase all the AR-15s alone, let alone the other models included in this. Wouldn’t that two billion dollars be better used if it was allocated to fight actual crime and violence and investments in community initiatives?”
The Liberal leader has actively contrasted his stance to that of his main opponent, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. He has described Scheer as "being in the pocket of the gun lobby."
On Friday, he drew the line deeper between the two tents, saying “Liberals want to strengthen gun control, Conservatives want to weaken it.”
Speaking in Saint John, New Brunswick this morning, Scheer addressed Trudeau’s earlier remarks about playing into the hands of gun ownership advocates.
"That’s a ridiculous accusation made by a prime minister who is mired in his own scandal and desperate to change the channel," said Scheer.
He added that he and his team instead would stand up for farmers, hunters and will go after illegal firearm ownership.
Other details of the Liberal's gun control plan include:
- A pledge to not bring back the long-gun registry;
- A commitment to address gender-based violence, including a potential ban on firearms for those suspected of posing a risk to themselves or others;
- A strengthening of storage laws; and
- A collaboration with RCMP to flag bulk purchasing.