By Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his assault-rifle ban on Sunday and promised to go even further by targeting handguns and tightening border security with new legislation introduced in the Parliament.
Yet he stopped short of providing a timeline for when such measures would be introduced, saying only that the federal Liberal government would move forward with legislation “when Parliament allows.”
The comments came during the prime minister’s daily COVID-19 news conference after the government on Friday outlawed a wide range of assault-style weapons. The ban did not require parliamentary approval and was instead published in regulations in the Canada Gazette.
Some have said the ban doesn’t go far enough and should include handguns while others have argued that it targets legal gun owners and that Ottawa should instead focus on the smuggling of illegal weapons at the border and stronger jail sentences.
Trudeau acknowledged his government has more work to do when it comes to guns in Canada, which was why it was working on legislation that will deal with the border, gun storage and handguns.
Exactly when will that legislation be introduced, however, appears to be anyone’s guess.
“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.”
Legislation will also need to be introduced around a two-year amnesty and a buyback program that will allow the current owners of assault rifles covered by Friday’s ban to receive compensation for turning in the designated firearms or keep them through a grandfathering process.
The Liberal government will move forward on that front “at the first opportunity when the House turns its attention to things other than” COVID-19, Trudeau said.
The House of Commons has limited its sitting to one in-person and two virtual per week due to the pandemic.
The assault-rifle ban came only weeks after one of the deadliest mass shootings in Canadian history, when a man dressed as an RCMP officer killed 22 people in Nova Scotia on April 18 and 19. Police have indicated the man had two rifles and several handguns on his possession at the time.
Some have accused the prime minister of using the tragedy to instigate a ban while Parliament is largely consumed with the COVID-19 pandemic, while others have questioned why the government waited so long.
The Liberals promised in the last election campaign to ban assault rifles and introduce legislation allowing cities to ban handguns.
Trudeau refused to apologize for the ban after Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Saturday said it targeted legal gun owners. He suggested Ottawa should instead focus on smuggling of illegal weapons at the border and strengthening jail sentences for gun crimes.
“We’ve seen far too many mass shootings in which military-style-assault weapons were used to kill innocent Canadians. In Sainte-Foy. Recently in Nova Scotia. Back at l’Ecole Polytechnique 30 years ago,” Trudeau said.
“We’ve seen far too many cases in which these guns have caused devastation to families and communities. That’s why it was time to ban them. This is something that we were able to do through regulations so it didn’t require legislation.”