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Canada Drops Ban on 'Assault-Style Weapons' Amid Debate Over New Gun Regulations

'Bill C-21 isn’t about targeting hunters, it’s about certain guns that are too dangerous in other contexts,' said Public Safety Minister

The Canadian government has opted not to move forward with an amendment that would have classified a significant number of guns as “prohibited” after the public became concerned common hunting rifles would be outlawed as a result of the new policy. 

The amendment was part of Bill C-21, a hotly debated gun control law that was delayed during debate within the House of Commons public safety committee last fall. The amendment prohibited assault-style weapons and would establish a broad definition of that classification which would include semi-automatic rifles and shotguns with a capacity of more than five cartridges. Additionally, the law could have banned long guns that are able to generate more than 10,000 joules of energy, or any gun with a muzzle wider than 20 millimeters.

“There have been legitimate concerns raised about the need for more consultation and debate on this vital part of the bill,” said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino in a statement on Feb. 3. “We hear those concerns loud and clear, regret the confusion that this process has caused and are committed to a thoughtful and respectful conversation that is based on facts, not fear.”

“The government’s intent is to focus on AR-15s and other assault-style weapons – not guns commonly used for hunting,” Mendicino added, per Global News. “Hunting isn’t just a proud Canadian tradition, it’s a way of life for communities across this country. Bill C-21 isn’t about targeting hunters, it’s about certain guns that are too dangerous in other contexts.”

An estimated 1,500 types of firearms would have been made illegal by the amendment. The federal government promoted the proposed regulations as “some of the strongest gun control measures in over 40 years.

The federal government is expected to continue to pursue more restrictive gun laws. 

“Law-abiding firearms owners know that this is thinly worded code signalling Minister Mendicino’s intent to continue to pursue avenues to ban widely owned shotguns and rifles,” Alberta Minister of Justice Tyler Shando said in a Feb. 3 statement. “It is becoming increasingly clear that further action will need to be taken to respond to the federal government’s hostility towards hunters, farmers, sport shooters and Indigenous Peoples.”

Shando was the first provincial leader to announce he would challenge a federal gun confiscation program established by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. 

In December, Trudeau told the press he was “committed” to passing the bill but was “fine-tuning” this list of banned “assault-style” guns.

“The definition is something that we are very much committed to. But the actual list that goes with it, that’s something that we’re consulting on right now,” said Trudeau.

Trudeau announced Bill C-21 in May of 2022 following a mass shooting in a suburb of Toronto. The Prime Minister said the ban would ensure the safety of communities and children.

One Canadian killed by gun violence is one too many,” Trudeau said in a statement at the time. “I’ve seen all too well the tragic cost that gun violence has in our communities across the country.”

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