Potential court challenge to the ban on assault-style firearms

Date: May 6, 2020

Classification: Unclassified

Branch/Agency: CSCCB

Issue:

The Government’s prohibition on assault-style firearms may be challenged under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights.

Proposed Response:

Background:

On May 1, 2020, the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and Other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited, Restricted or Non-Restricted were amended to prescribe as prohibited approximately 1,500 models of firearms and their variants, along with upper receivers for some newly-prohibited firearms. Of those, nine principal models of assault-style firearms are prohibited as they have semi-automatic action with sustained rapid-fire capability (tactical military design with large magazine capacity); are of modern design, and are presented in large volumes in the Canadian market.  Also included are two categories of firearm that exceed safe civilian use: firearms with 20 mm bore or greater or with a muzzle energy of greater than 10,000 Joules.

The Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights has posted on its website its intent to submit a court challenge to the ban under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This section states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” The Coalition further states, “[W]e believe that [the ban] is a wrongful deprivation of liberty arising from an improper exercise of legislative power….[W]e have been deprived, both as to our freedom to live as we choose, as well as being put at risk of incarceration by this law, in a manner that is fundamentally unjust.”

Parliament gave the Governor-in-Council the authority to prescribe firearms as prohibited or restricted by regulation since 1969. This power has been used a number of times since then. The 1995 Firearms Act, which established the current firearms classification system, also provided the Government with the authority to prescribe firearms as prohibited or restricted.

Contacts:

Prepared by: Brendan Blom, Senior Policy Analyst, 613-884-4450 (cell)

Approved by: Trevor Bhupsingh, A/Assistant Deputy Minister

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