*Editor’s Note: U.S. law enforcement officials say the type of weapon used in the Orlando nightclub shootings is a Sig Sauer MCX rifle, not an AR-15, which is a similar model.
The semi-automatic type rifle used in Sunday’s deadly mass shooting in Florida is classified as a restricted weapon in Canada and most people can only use it at a gun range.
The AR-15 is a civilian model of the M16 rifle used by the U.S. army and has been used to carry out other mass slayings in the past, including the 2012 killing of 20 children in Newtown, Conn.
One of the top-selling rifles in the U.S., the AR-15 is also popular in Canada, according to Ontario provincial police.
But while purchasing one doesn’t require a licence in Florida, anyone looking to buy one here must have a firearms licence that includes restricted weapons, which involves passing two one-day safety courses. RCMP note that they need “a minimum of 45 days” to process an application.
The form includes questions about the applicant’s mental and emotional health and an RCMP report said 112 applications were denied last year due to mental health concerns.
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Authorities can request that someone provide information from their doctor to confirm they are not at risk to themselves or others if police have recorded an incident related to mental health, but privacy legislation makes it otherwise difficult to seek that information, another RCMP report said.
“Considering almost three-quarters of the firearm deaths across Canada are attributable to suicide, there is little progress being made in developing better links with the mental health community as far as reporting obligations,” said the 2010 report, an evaluation of the Canadian Firearms Program.
“The exception being with the province of Quebec… where more workable arrangements have been made with the mental health services to report on persons of risk.”
Anyone seeking to buy a restricted weapon must also have authorization from their province’s Chief Firearms Officer to transport the gun to a shooting range, gun show, gunsmith or a few other permitted locations.
The RCMP says there are only a few purposes for which individuals can obtain a restricted firearms licence, “the most common being target practice or target shooting competitions, or as part of a collection.”
“In limited circumstances, restricted firearms are also allowed for use in connection with one’s lawful profession or occupation, or to protect life,” the force’s website says.
Still, the AR-15 — a brand name for that particular style of rifle — is widely available and in demand, said Insp. Steve Ridout, a spokesman for Ontario’s Chief Firearms Officer.
That’s in part because the patent for the rifle, which was owned by Colt, ran out years ago, allowing other companies to make their own versions, he said.
“It’s very popular,” Ridout said. “Especially since the patent ran out, there’s lots of variations of it now.”
Prices listed on various Canadian gun store websites ranged from around $700 to several thousand dollars.
“There’s lots of different AR-15 platforms so it kind of covers the gamut of price points,” Ridout said.
More than two million Canadians had firearms licences last year, according to an RCMP report.
As of December 31, there were a total of 978,347 restricted or prohibited firearms registered to individuals or businesses in Canada, the report said.