Organized Crime Reduction and Border Security Minister Bill Blair says there are some guns that have no place in civil society and he will propose banning “assault-style” firearms while leaving the door open for municipalities to consider further restrictions of their own.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday morning, Blair was asked about a report in the Toronto Star that the Liberals will not put a national ban on handguns in place but, instead, will target “assault-style” weapons and allow cities to take additional measures on how and if handguns can be stored within their boundaries.
“It’s certainly my recommendation,” he said when asked about whether the Liberals will ban assault weapons.
“There are some weapons, quite frankly, in my opinion, that are so dangerous that there really is no place in a safe and civil society for them, and I think there are measures we can take to make those guns just generally unacceptable and inaccessible.”
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He said there are roughly 200,000 so-called “assault-style” firearms in Canada.
Blair also noted that the measures the Liberals will propose to tackle gun violence will impose tougher safe-storage requirements for other firearms as opposed to restricting or removing legally owned weapons from law-abiding owners.
But he said because of the gun and gang violence hitting cities across the country in recent years, the government will consider letting municipalities enact restrictions and potential bans of their own that go beyond the national safe-storage rules.
“Because of the particular vulnerability of large urban centres to gang violence, there may be additional measures that can be appropriately applied within those municipalities, and we’re prepared to explore that with them,” he said before being pressed for more details.
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“A municipality might have additional requirements on where and if firearms can be stored within their boundaries.”
According to an Angus Reid poll in May, six out of 10 Canadians want to see handguns banned.
A further three-quarters want a ban on assault weapons.
However, “assault weapon” or “assault-style” are not actually legal terms in Canadian law.
There are three classes of firearms in Canada: non-restricted (which includes most hunting rifles and shotguns, or “long guns”), restricted (which includes most handguns and semi-automatic weapons within certain size parameters) and prohibited (certain concealable handguns and fully automatic firearms).
When it comes to so-called assault weapons, the term is generally used to refer to firearms that are at least semi-automatic, can fire large amounts of ammunition and are designed for rapid fire.
Blair said there are a number of outstanding issues that still need to be addressed when it comes to how any ban, new safe-storage rules or municipal restrictions could work, but the minister said that work will not be done before the election.
The House of Commons is set to rise for the summer at the end of the week and will not return until after Canadians go to the polls.
“In order to consider putting additional weapons on the prohibited list, and then how we remove those weapons from society — whether they’re grandfathered or subject to a buyback — I think that merits careful consideration and discussion in Parliament,” he said.
“There’s no time to do that in the current session.”