After days of question about his party’s gun policy, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Sunday he would maintain a Liberal ban on ‘assault-style’ firearms if he forms government.
“I want to make my position on firearms perfectly clear. First, the ban on assault weapons will remain in place. Second, the present ban on a number of other firearms that were reclassified in 2020 will remain in place,” he told reporters in Vancouver.
At a French-language debate on Thursday, O’Toole said he would maintain a ban on assault weapons.
O’Toole, however, remained evasive about the party’s position, repeating he would maintain the ban on assault weapons and telling reporters on Saturday that people who were confused on his position could look to the party’s platform to “fill in the blanks.”
That document promises to repeal the Liberal measures, which were introduced through a May 2020 Order in Council and banned some 1,500 firearm models, including the popular AR-15 rifle and the Ruger Mini-14 used to kill 14 women at Montreal’s Ecole polytechnique in 1989.
O’Toole’s Sunday statements appeared to reverse course on that plan for the time being.
A senior conservative source tells Global News — it became clear that the Liberals wanted “to make this an issue” for the entire week.
“O’Toole’s team thought they hadn’t said enough to put the issue to bed, so it was added to his remarks at the last minute this morning,” the source said.
“We’re maintaining the status quo that’s in place right now,” O’Toole said Sunday, while also leaving the door open for future changes.
The Conservative Leader’s comments also included a promise of a “public, transparent” review of Canada’s gun classification system, a step he said will depoliticize gun regulation.
“Our intention is to take the politics out of this, because Mr. Trudeau has divided rural versus urban, he has demonized, in some cases, farmers, hunters, sport shooters and actually ignored the real problem of rising smuggling and organized gang activity,” he said.
“Assault” or “assault-style” firearms are colloquial descriptions, and what falls into either category is debated among gun users.
The Conservative platform also promises to scrap bill C-71, which expanded background checks for people seeking gun licenses as well as record-keeping requirements for gun sellers.
Asked about whether repealing that bill remains a promise, O’Toole repeated that he would maintain the bans on assault and “assault-style” weapon.
O’Toole made the comments at the end of a pier in downtown Vancouver, where he promised to hire 200 additional RCMP officers to fight gun smuggling, street gangs and illegal drug sales.
Most of those officers would be deployed to the Greater Toronto Area and British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, he said, and would work with American agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement to fight gun smuggling.
“We have liberal and NDP candidates who are running in this election who think we need to defund the police. I couldn’t disagree more. We need more police officers, not fewer,” he said.
Hours before O’Toole, who has faced days of questions over his firearms policy, made his remarks, Trudeau hit on the issue by championing his government’s action on gun control in the Greater Toronto Area.
He promised to tighten measures imposed last year even further by limiting the number of rounds high-capacity gun magazines can hold and providing $1 billion for provinces wishing to ban handguns.
In May 2020, Trudeau’s government banned some 1,500 firearm models, including the popular AR-15 rifle and the Ruger Mini-14, used in some of the country’s deadliest shootings.
O’Toole had promised to repeal the order-in-council that instituted the ban, but after several days of attacks from the Liberals about striking a deal with the country’s gun lobby, he clarified the ban would stay in place. He pledged, however, to conduct a review of Canada’s system for classifying firearms if voted into office.
The Liberals seized on that promise, saying it offers a wink and a nudge to groups representing gun owners that he intends to keep his commitment to repeal the existing legislation.
— With files from Global News’ Mike Le Couteur