Prominent gun-control groups are urging MPs to legislatively enshrine a comprehensive ban on firearms the government outlawed using regulatory orders more than two years ago.
The Liberals banned some 1,500 models and variants of firearms, including the AR-15 and Ruger Mini-14, through an order-in-council in May 2020 on the grounds they have no place in hunting or sport shooting.
Appearing at the House of Commons public safety committee Tuesday, the group PolySeSouvient said a comprehensive ban on all such firearms, including some not covered in 2020, must be built into a bill MPs are studying.
The group wants this “evergreen” measure to be accompanied by new regulations that create a pre-authorization process for models coming onto the market.
The process would ensure that only those guns specifically deemed “non-restricted” or “restricted” and given a Firearm Reference Number by the RCMP would be legal, says PolySeSouvient.
The group includes students and graduates of Montreal’s École Polytechnique, where 14 women were gunned down in 1989 by a man armed with a Ruger Mini-14.
Nathalie Provost, who was shot four times during the spree, told the committee no ordinary citizen should be able to legally possess a firearm that allows them to end several lives in a few seconds, simply by pulling the trigger.
“The combination of bad intentions and the ability to access firearms increases the chances of serious injuries and death,” said Provost, a spokesperson for PolySeSouvient.
Heidi Rathjen, co-ordinator of the group, said during the meeting that including a definition of an assault-style firearm in the bill is important because simply having a list of banned guns requires the government of the day to update the list, a system that has failed in the past.
Rathjen told the MPs that when it comes to a definition, PolySeSouvient would defer to experts who assist the committee, as well as those within government and the RCMP, “to draw the line, which we know won’t be easy.”
“But currently, the orders-in-council, and the little bit of the criteria that’s in there, do not cover all assault weapons, and that needs to change,” she said.
“We’ve been fighting for that for 33 years. And that’s our top priority.”
Sixteen years ago at Dawson College in Montreal, a gunman killed 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa and wounded 19 others, including Meaghan Hennegan.
Hennegan, a spokesperson for Families of Dawson, told the MPs that some weapons are just too dangerous for private ownership. “We need a comprehensive ban on assault weapons and we need them to be taken out of circulation.”
A buyback program still being planned would require owners of the firearms banned in 2020 to either sell the guns to the government or have them rendered inoperable at federal expense.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2022.