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Ottawa is ‘fine-tuning’ list of banned ‘assault-style’ guns amid criticism: Trudeau

Click to play video: 'Canada working on enshrining definition of ‘assault-style’ weapons into law: Trudeau'
Canada working on enshrining definition of ‘assault-style’ weapons into law: Trudeau
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that the government is currently working on a legal definition of 'assault-style' weapons to be banned in Canada and passing that into law. The Liberal amendment to gun law reform Bill C-21, which was tabled in a committee meeting last month, is facing questions about how far it will expand the scope of weapons that are prohibited in Canada – Dec 8, 2022

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article contained a typo indicating the prime minister said the definition was “not” being enshrined into law. That was inaccurate – he said the definition is “now” being enshrined into law. This copy has been updated.

The government is “committed” to moving ahead with its bid to enshrine a definition of an “assault-style firearm” into law — but this is currently “fine-tuning” the details, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

The Liberals also called Thursday for an emergency meeting to invite witnesses to share their concerns about the proposed legislation, which is currently being studied at the House of Commons public safety committee.

The Liberal amendment to gun law reform Bill C-21, which was tabled in a committee meeting last month, is facing questions about how far it will expand the scope of weapons that are prohibited in Canada. The move prompted blowback from numerous hunters, including the Montreal Canadiens star Carey Price, who called the proposed legislation “unjust.”

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Walking into a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Trudeau confirmed he has no plans to drop his legislative push to enshrine a legal definition for “assault-style” firearms — a term that isn’t currently defined in Canadian law, despite being regularly used by Liberal politicians.

Automatic assault weapons are already prohibited in Canada.

“The definition is something that we are very much committed to. But the actual list that goes with it, that’s something that we’re consulting on right now,” Trudeau told reporters.

“Because we understand that there are concerns by hunters and farmers that we’re going after their shotguns and rifles. We are not. And that’s what we’re going to make sure with fine-tuning of the legislation.”

Click to play video: '‘Leave hunters alone’: Conservative MPs attack Mendicino over proposed gun safety bill'
‘Leave hunters alone’: Conservative MPs attack Mendicino over proposed gun safety bill

The federal government last month proposed amending its gun control bill to define what an “assault-style” weapon is. It includes a clause that would ban any rifle or shotgun that could potentially accept a magazine with more than five rounds.

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It builds on a regulatory ban of more than 1,500 models of what the government considers “assault-style” firearms last year.

The proposed reforms have reopened the debate about what firearms should be prohibited, restricted or non-restricted in the country. There have also been concerns about whether the criteria used to make those decisions are being consistently applied, as the definition applies only to some variations of certain models, depending on bore diameter and muzzle energy.

Click to play video: 'SARM says Bill C-21 will target farmers, ranchers and sport shooters, not criminals'
SARM says Bill C-21 will target farmers, ranchers and sport shooters, not criminals

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has said the amendment unfairly targets hunters and farmers, while failing to address the country’s issues with gun violence.

During Wednesday’s question period, Poilievre pointed out that the Liberal MP for Yukon reportedly said he would not support Bill C-21 and had called the amendments “upsetting.”

“Mr. Speaker, we are singing from a very different song sheet than the inflationary government. Do members know who else is singing from a different song sheet? The Liberal MP for the Yukon. He has confirmed what Conservatives have been saying all along,” Poilievre said.

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“Canadians do not want to ban hunters; they want to stop criminals.”

The amendment’s late addition also came under fire from NDP MP Alistair MacGregor, who said the committee looking at the bill has “not had enough time to properly consult with constituents, with hunters, with farmers who may be adversely impacted by this.”

“For this very substantial amendment to drop on our lap at the 11th hour is an abuse of process,” he told reporters in a press conference earlier this week.

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As criticism continues to swirl, Trudeau said Tuesday that the government is “moving forward on a ban on assault-style weapons.”

“We did that two years ago, we’re now enshrining it into law and ensuring that going forward, all assault-style weapons that might be sold in Canada will not be sold in Canada. And for that, we have to establish a definition because we know gun makers keep creating new variations to try to get around a list that we’ve put forward,” he explained.

“So the main part of it is a set of definitions of what characterizes an assault-style weapon, the kinds of weapons that are used to kill the largest number of people as quickly as possible.”

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He said it’s a “challenge” that there are “many guns” used for hunting and sport shooting that “may or may not fall on one side of the definition or the other.”

“So what we’re looking at right now is where to make sure that that line is right. To keep communities safe, to ban military-style assault weapons, and to ensure that we’re not going after shotguns and rifles that are primarily used for hunting,” he said.

“It’s a complex issue.”

— with files from Global News’ Aaron D’Andrea

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