Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau Orders Ban on Assault Weapons

Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers prepare to take an active-shooter suspect into custody at a gas station in Enfield, Nova Scotia, on April 19. (Tim Krochak/The Canadian Press via AP)

(CN) — Canada will ban assault rifles in the aftermath of one of the country’s deadliest rampages, in which a gunman killed 22 people over two days in Nova Scotia last month.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the move in an address televised Friday. Effective immediately, Trudeau’s administration is “closing the market” on military-grade assault weapons. It is now illegal to buy, sell, transport, import or use 1,500 models and variants of the firearms.

“You don’t need an AR-15 to bring down a deer,” Trudeau said from a podium at Parliament Hill. “These weapons were designed for one purpose, and one purpose only. To kill the largest amount of people in the shortest amount of time.”

Trudeau said the ban was sparked by an increase in gun violence, which has Trudeau noted in his addressed has increased since his first memory of the 1989 mass school shooting at the Ecole Polytechnique college in Montreal. Guns killed 249 people in Canada in 2018, the last year for which the government has posted data. Of those, only two are listed as having died from automatic weapons. That same year, guns killed 14,611 people in the United States.

But Trudeau said the move became critical in the wake of an incident that was among the deadliest mass shootings in Canada’s history. On April 18 and 19, a gunman in Nova Scotia shot and killed 13 people and set fires that resulted in the deaths of nine more.

“Their families deserve more than thoughts and prayers,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau’s administration had already planned to introduce gun control legislation this year — a move that has so far been prevented by pandemic upheavals that postponed the parliamentary session. But Trudeau said Friday that his government will push ahead with such plans.

Canadians have two years to comply with the Cabinet order, Trudeau said. He promised legislation to institute a buyback program where the government would provide “fair compensation” for assault weapons that Canadians already own.

Conservative leaders, meanwhile, panned the move as ineffectual and ideologically driven. Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, Trudeau’s main rival in the most recent election, noted the gunman in the Nova Scotia shooting wouldn’t have been stopped by the ban because he had obtained his guns illegally.

“Taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens does nothing to stop dangerous criminals who obtain their guns illegally,” Scheer said in a statement. “The vast majority of gun crimes are committed with illegally obtained firearms. Nothing the Trudeau Liberals announced today addresses this problem.”

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the order is necessary to prevent future tragedies.

“Enough is enough — banning these firearms will save Canadian lives,” he added.

Trudeau said the ban was a matter of preserving Canada’s national identity.

“These tragedies reverberate,” Trudeau said. “They shake our identity. They stain our conscience. And they are happening more often than they once did. More parents are struggling to explain the inexplicable to their kids and more teenagers are growing up in a world where gun violence is normalized. It needs to stop.”

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