By Larry Keane
A line in the Canadian national anthem says, “God keep our land glorious and free!” Well today, Canada is less free. It would seem unthinkable in the United States, but our northern neighbors are watching the government wipe out their rights and seize their lawfully owned guns.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “announced the ban of over 1,500 models and variants” of so called “assault-style” firearms. Those firearms, much like those included in the failed 1994 Assault Weapons Ban in the United States that expired after 10 years, are classified as “assault-style” firearms primarily by cosmetic features that have nothing to do with the function of the rifle. Prime Minister Trudeau’s declaration, passed by order and not law, is in response to a tragic murder by a deranged man in Novia Scotia who killed 22. Canadian authorities have not released the types of firearms misused in those crimes, only saying several semiautomatic rifles and handguns were used.
Prime Minister Trudeau said his new ban includes some of those used in the murders.
“I can say with some confidence that the two long-guns that were involved in that investigation, without identifying them, are included on today’s list,” he said.
However, the prime minister ignored that the murderer was prohibited by Canadian courts from possessing any firearm due to a previous assault conviction. Police initially denied the murderer had a criminal record, but it was later learned in 2002, he pled guilty and was ordered to complete anger management counseling after assaulting another man. In addition to a nine-month probation and order to stay away from his victim, he was also prohibited by the court from owning or possessing a firearm, ammunition or explosives.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s plan calls for a two-year amnesty period, during which time owners would be compensated for seized guns. Allowing current owners to keep their rifles is also being considered, but government authorities would still seize them upon the owner’s death. A national $250 million buyback is proposed, but not authorized or funded. Previous Canadian government proposals put the price tag at $600 million, but skeptics say the true cost would be closer to $2.7 billion.
Prime Minister Trudeau signaled last year this was coming. In September 2019, he told voters he would ban modern sporting rifles if re-elected. That announcement came on the heels of the prime minister having to answer for blackface scandals, when photos surfaced of at least three instances of him being photographed with brown or black face makeup, one of those from 2001 at an “Arabian Nights” party while teaching at a private school.
Prime Minister Trudeau said in 2019, he and his Liberal Party would give municipalities the ability to further restrict, or outright ban semiautomatic modern sporting rifles and handguns. That was after the murders committed by a mentally unstable man in Toronto and the attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Now, he’s delivered a list that covers nearly every modern sporting rifle from Adams Arms to ZVI’s OP96 and 99, which are actually bolt-action rifles. It also includes mortars and grenade, rocket and anti-tank missile launchers. That still wasn’t enough for Canada’s chief gun grabber. The list includes semiautomatic rifles that even U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) doesn’t seek to ban in her proposed gun bans – like the Ruger Mini-14. It’s largely considered a “ranch gun” that doesn’t have the cosmetic features gun control advocates list as criteria.
Prime Minister Trudeau isn’t done, either. He indicated he’s going after handguns next. He wants to allow municipalities to pass their own handgun bans and require mandatory storage laws. He stopped short of offering a timeline.
“We know there is more to do on strengthening gun control in this country which is why we’re going to be moving forward when Parliament allows it with stronger measures around borders, stronger measures around safe storage,” Trudeau said. “Measures around handguns to permit municipalities to ban handguns within their city limits.”
He has gun control leaders whispering in his ear. They’re saying the rifle ban isn’t enough.
Michael Bociurkiw is a global affairs analyst and a former spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He questioned the ban in a CNN op-ed as a “half-baked measure” for not going further, adding “now is the time for bold action.” He noted Canadian politicians have “much more leeway” without constitutional protections for the right to keep and bear arms, like the United States’ Second Amendment. But by his own admission, Bociurkiw notes the overwhelming majority of crimes committed with firearms are not modern sporting rifles, and the Nova Scotia murderer obtained the firearms illegally. In other words, more gun control because Canadian gun control laws didn’t work.
Canada tried their hand at tracking guns. It resulted in a bloated government bureaucracy that grew from $2 million to register Canada’s 15 million long guns to over $1 billion. That was before authorities there realized criminals don’t register guns. The entire venture made little sense and didn’t reduce crime.
Not all Canadians are pleased with the move. Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford said the money should be used to target criminals, not those obeying laws. Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney echoed the concerns the measures weren’t targeting criminals. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe joined the chorus of disappointment. Four Conservative Party candidates challenging Prime Minister Trudeau denounced the politically-motivated move. Canadian journalist Brian Lilly slammed the gun grab.
“Alberta is annoyed. Anybody who comes into my store is annoyed,” said Jim Osadczuk, owner of Sebarms Guns and Gear in Edmonton.
The news from the north underscores the importance of the Second Amendment in the United States. It tells the government what it cannot do. It is vital voters remind their elected officials of that. Voters can find out all they need to know about their candidates and how, when and where to vote at NSSF’s #GUNVOTE. What’s happening on the northern border is a reminder for all voters, don’t risk your rights.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.