Today, International Workers Day 2020, the Canadian government banned, with immediate effect, the sale, transfer, importation and use of assault style weapons. The ban covers 1,500 models and variants of assault style firearms, and will be amended to include new models in the future.
At a national press conference by the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Justin Trudeau and several cabinet members including the Minister for Public Safety Mr. Bill Blair, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ms. Chrystia Freeland and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr. David Lametti, outlined the scope of the ban.
The Prime Minister opened the Press Conference by recalling his own college age experience of learning of the 1989 mass shooting at the École Polytechnique in Montreal where a gunman separated out and killed female students. Mr. Trudeau reflected on his disbelief about how such an event could happen within the country. In perhaps an oblique critique of American policy he stated, “Prayers and thoughts are not enough.” and continued,“Because of gun violence, people are dying, families are grieving, and communities are suffering. It must end. Assault-style firearms designed for military use have no place in Canada. By removing them from our streets, we will limit the devastating effects of gun-related violence and help make our country safer.”
Mr. Blair, the Public Safety Minister, noted that there had been wide support for an assault weapons ban by the public in Canada for years and today’s actions were a response to that. He also noted that public concern regarding the militarization of the police was directly tied to the militarization of the public which had occurred through the acquisition of military grade weapons by some members of the public. He noted that this ban will increase public safety from individuals motivated by racism and misogyny.
Ms. Freeland, the Deputy Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister noted that a disproportionate percentage of the victims are women, and that the fetishization of weapons and femicide it enabled needed to stop. She provided statistics on the numbers of women specifically targeted by violence, and further noted that owning a weapon designed to kill many people was part of making one look like they could kill many people. She noted that this law will protect women and is firmly within the Canadian government’s feminist policies.
While the ban on use, transfer, sale, and importation is in effect immediately, a two year amnesty is in place for current owners regarding possession. Gun shops may apply for a permit to export back to manufactures, and current private owners may apply within those 2 years to export a now illegal firearm. The government will propose legislation to Parliament for a ‘fair market’ buy back as well. There are exceptions under the amnesty for Indigenous peoples exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights to hunt, and for those who hunt or trap to sustain themselves or their families. These exceptions will allow for the continued use of newly prohibited firearms in limited circumstances until a suitable replacement can be found. By the end of the amnesty period, all firearms owners must comply with the ban.
Nonviolence International is a founding member of the International Action Network on Small Arms, a global movement against gun violence that links hundreds of organizations working to stop the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons.