4 mai 2020 | Local, Terrestre

Liberals set to break promise to buy back ‘all’ assault weapons in Canada

The Liberal government is walking back an election promise to buy back “all" military-style assault rifles in Canada, opting instead to allow current owners to sell their weapons to the government or to keep them under a grandfathering process, federal officials say.

The measure is set to anger both sides of the gun-control debate, who are already polarized over the looming ban of a number of semi-automatic weapons.

The partial buyback program is the latest example of the Liberal Party of Canada promising strict gun-control measures during an election and then backing off in government.

Under grandfathering, new weapons sales will be stopped, but current owners will be allowed to keep their banned weapons at home under certain conditions. The broad details of the buyback program were provided by federal officials, whom The Globe and Mail is not identifying because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Alison de Groot, of the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association, said a partial buyback program is “bad public policy” and doesn’t make sense.

“It is totally ineffective and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” she said. “Canadians will not be safer.”

Nathalie Provost, who was hit by four bullets during the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in which 14 women died, said a partial buyback is another disappointment in her 30-year battle for gun control. She said she understands the logistical difficulties of a full buyback, but blamed the situation on a series of failures by successive governments to enact strong gun-control measures.

She was particularly critical of the elimination in 2012 of much of the federal long-gun registry under the previous Harper government.

“I’m so angry, you can’t imagine,” said Ms. Provost, who is part of a gun-control group called Poly Remembers.

As previously reported by The Globe, the federal government is implementing its election promise to ban military-style assault rifles in Canada. Federal officials said the government has adopted a list of nine weapons to be prohibited in Canada, including firearms such as the AR-15, the Ruger Mini-14 and the Beretta CX4 Storm that have been used in mass shootings, in Canada or abroad

Provisional list of recommended prohibited firearms

Estimated numbers in Canada

M16, M4, AR-10, AR-15

Sandy Hook, New Zealand,

Las Vegas, Orlando







Swiss Arms Classic Green




Quebec Mosque

CZ Scorpion EVO 3



Beretta CX4 Storm

Dawson College




Robinson XCR

Guns above 20 mm calibre



Guns with muzzle energy above 10,000 joules



The ban, which has been made through a cabinet decision, is set to be announced and take effect shortly.

The government expects that banning the nine platforms and their variants will scoop up close to 1,500 different models in the country, totalling tens of thousands of individual firearms.

In addition to the nine platforms, prohibitions are expected to be placed on guns with a muzzle energy exceeding 10,000 joules, which would snare .50-calibre sniper rifles, and those with calibres in excess of 20 millimetres, a rare grade of firearm that includes some grenade launchers.

“Those are the only two prohibitions that make sense,” said A.J. Somerset, author of Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun and a former gunnery instructor with the Canadian Forces. “They seek to ban things around specifications. Going after individual models perpetuates the same failed approach."

Mr. Somerset said that prohibiting specific models resembles a push in the 1990s to crack down on semi-automatic assault-style rifles under then-prime minister Jean Chrétien. Rather than passing comprehensive legislation, the government of the day sought to stamp out “military-style assault weapons” by identifying gun models through order-in-council.

According to RCMP briefing notes, the orders-in-council were intended to be updated continually as new guns arrived on the Canadian market. For the most part, that never happened and gun manufacturers easily switched production to firearm models that circumvented the regulations.

“As soon as they prohibit one model, other models will become popular – it’s whack-a-mole,” said Alan Voth, a gun forensics consultant and retired RCMP firearms analyst.

Mr. Voth said the 1990s prohibitions made Canada’s classification system so convoluted that regional RCMP forensics labs would often disagree with one another over how certain firearm models should be classified. The government eventually centralized classification duties in Ottawa, in part to overcome regional discrepancies.

Unlike the coming ban on specific assault-style weapons, the buyback program, and further gun-control measures being prepared by Ottawa, will need to be enacted through new legislation and are only scheduled to take effect next year. It remains unclear how much the buyback program will cost, but Ms. de Groot said the Liberals “grossly underestimated” the cost when they provided a $250-million price tag during the election.

In a statement, Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus accused the government of using the “immediate emotion” of a recent mass shooting in Nova Scotia to “make major policy changes” such as the ban on assault weapons. The NDP and the Bloc Québécois both said they support a ban of assault weapons.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the timing of the ban on Thursday, explaining his government was nearly ready to introduce the gun-control measures when Parliament suspended its regular activities in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.