Trudeau, along with several federal cabinet ministers, unveiled the details of the promised ban on Friday, with Public Safety Minister Bill Blair describing it as a “first step” with others still to come.
The ban will see a total of 1,500 assault-style firearms banned for use, sale, import or transport in Canada effective immediately and includes a two-year amnesty period for current owners.
Eventually, there will also be a buyback program, but those details are still being worked out.
“All buyback programs will need to be made into bills, and so we will have to work with the other parties, with different groups throughout the country, to make sure that this buyback program (is) the best one, that it be fair, and we want it to have the necessary impact,” Trudeau said.
“Things are still being ironed out.”
Such legislation will not be put forward until the immediate coronavirus crisis has passed and the government is able to put forward a budget to pass non-pandemic-related spending.
Trudeau cited numerous mass shootings, from École Polytechnique in 1989 to the killings in Nova Scotia last week, as the reasons for the move.
“These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time,” he said.
“We can stick to thoughts and prayers alone, or we can unite as a country and put an end to this.”
Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the Ecole Polytechnique shooting and spokesperson for the gun control advocacy group PolyRemembers, said while news of the ban should be applauded, its effects could be undercut without a full accompanying buyback scheme.
“What would have been a total victory for public safety has been tainted by unconfirmed but credible reports that the buy-back program may be voluntary, not mandatory, which could be tantamount to no
buy-back program,” she said.
“A partial buyback would be just one more disappointment in our 30-year battle for gun control. This could means that tens of thousands of assault weapons will remain in circulation, in the hands of their current owners, for generations.”
Provost said any such partial buyback “would be a big win for the gun lobby.”
Blair said the government recognizes there are some people who find it fun to use high-power firearms for things like hunting and target shooting but that there is no justification for civilian use.
“Protecting human lives must come above all else,” he said.
He added that future steps include establishing “evergreen” changes to the classification system of firearms in Canada to try to prevent manufacturers from circumventing the ban by designing new weapons.
Firearms in Canada are classified by three types: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited.
The federal cabinet can also ban specific guns by name via orders in council, which is what they are doing with the list released on Friday.
Automatic weapons are included in the prohibited category, as are some semi-automatic guns, sawed-off rifles or shotguns and small handguns.
Restricted firearms include most semi-automatic guns, along with handguns not already covered in the prohibited category.
In the non-restricted category are rifles and shotguns that are neither restricted or prohibited.
The firearms targeted in the new ban are a mix of those in the restricted and non-restricted categories.
Stricter controls on firearms were a promise in the Liberals’ election campaign platform last fall.
Trudeau has said the government was on the verge of bringing in stricter gun-control legislation in March but froze plans when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.