Canada's 'Assault Weapon' Ban

So-called “assault rifles” have been targeted. What's next?

Canada's 'Assault Weapon' Ban
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“Never let a crisis go to waste.” Those were Winston Churchill’s words echoed more recently by Rahm Emanuel, then-Chief of Staff to President-elect Barack Obama and former mayor of Chicago. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have been listening. On May 1, 2020, nearly two weeks after a tragic mass shooting in rural Nova Scotia, Trudeau introduced the ban list covering some 1,500 models that he described as “military-style assault weapons” and fulfilled a gun-control promise he made during last year’s elections.

During a 13-hour period that spanned from April 18 to 19, 2020, a Canadian national impersonated a police officer and murdered 22 individuals by both gunshot and arson. The long killing spree ended when the man was shot by officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). It was quickly declared the nation’s deadliest mass-shooting.

The shooter did not have a required firearm license according to the RCMP, which means that he was breaking the law before he ever fired a shot. Reportedly, only one of the four firearms used in the attacks was legally obtained in Canada, but that didn’t stop the immediate calls to expand gun-control laws. This sweeping move to ban these firearms happened without debate, and without the approval of the nation’s legislative body. Previously legal firearms became contraband by the stroke of a pen.

In Canada, there are three basic categories of firearm: unrestricted, restricted and prohibited. Trudeau’s ban moves hundreds of models from “restricted” to the “prohibited” status. The list of banned firearms is extensive and comprehensive. It is clear that Canada’s bureaucrats have been doing their homework. All AR-15 variants are included, and 917 individual types are listed by name. Uppers for AR-15 style rifles are also considered “prohibited devices” subject to the ban’s criminal penalties.


Mini-14s are also banned, as are M1As, VZ-58s, and a number of pistol-caliber carbines (PCC) including the CZ Scorpion EVO series and SIG Sauer’s MCX. And it doesn’t end there. Firearms that produce muzzle energies in-excess of 10,000 joules are banned, which includes rifles chambered in .50 BMG and other similar cartridges. Finally, firearms with a bore diameter of 20mm or greater are prohibited. This list of 259 items includes antique anti-tank rifles as well as mortars, grenade launchers and recoilless rifles. (Who knew that these were legal in Canada to begin with?)


Those who possess any of these firearms will be required to turn them in to authorities during a two-year amnesty period. Some financial compensation will be offered, though those amounts have not been made public as of yet. One might surmise that Canada will follow the lead of New Zealand, who enacted a similar ban in 2019. An estimated 100 million New Zealand Dollars were dolled-out during the amnesty period to those who turned-in prohibited firearms and accessories. Though gun-control advocates point to New Zealand as a success story, it is estimated than less than a third of prohibited firearms were actually surrendered during that nation’s amnesty.

There are many who would love to enact a ban in the United States that mirrors what was just announced in Canada and what has been enacted in New Zealand. Fortunately, our nation’s founders set up a system of checks and balances that ensures that such restrictions should not happen by mere decree. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen here, it just means that it might take longer to pass into effect. With Canada banning some of the most popular firearms enjoyed by Americans, the pressure on our lawmakers to do the same will only increase.

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