Prohibition of Assault-Style Weapons

Date: December 16, 2021
Classification: Unclassified
Branch / Agency: CPB

Proposed Response:


In 2020, while firearm-related violent crimes have been a small proportion of all police-reported violent crime in Canada, the rate of certain violent offences specific to firearms increased for the sixth consecutive year (a 15% increase compared to 2019 according to Statistics Canada’s police-reported crime statistics). Firearm-related homicide has doubled from 2013 (134) to 2020 (277).

In 2019, 51% of firearm-related homicides were related to gang activity, the majority committed with handguns (78%). The number of victims of police-reported intimate partner violence where a firearm was present increased 65% from 2013 (401) to 2019 (660). Further, suicide by firearm also continues, with over 500 deaths identified in 2019. Furthermore, Canada has experienced nine high-profile mass shootings in urban and rural areas since 2014 which have captured public attention, including l’École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989, Dawson College in Montreal in 2006, Moncton in 2014, the Quebec City mosque in 2017, and Nova Scotia in 2020. Assault-style firearms were used by the perpetrators in these mass shootings.

Prohibition of Assault-Style Firearms, Amnesty and Buyback:

Between October 2018 and February 2019, Public Safety Canada held extensive consultations to help inform policy, regulations and legislation on the Government of Canada’s commitment to reduce violent crime involving firearms. Consultations were held with a wide range of stakeholders and an engagement summary report, Reducing Violent Crime: A Dialogue on Handguns and Assault-Style Firearms, was released in April 2019.

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. 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 present in large volumes in the Canadian market. Also included are two categories of firearms that exceed safe civilian use: firearms with 20 mm bore or greater, or with a muzzle energy of greater than 10,000 Joules. In addition, the upper receivers of M16, AR-10, AR-15 and M4 pattern firearms have been prescribed as prohibited devices.

The Government decided that these newly prohibited firearms and components are not reasonable for hunting or sport shooting purposes given the inherent danger that they pose to public safety. Following the ban, the Government declared an amnesty period until April 30, 2022. The Amnesty Order protects affected individuals, who (1) were in legal possession of a newly prohibited firearm or device when the Regulations came into force, and, (2) continue to hold a valid licence during the amnesty period, from criminal liability for unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm in order to afford the individuals with time to dispose of the firearms. Further, the Government announced its intention to establish a buy-back program to offer fair compensation to affected owners and businesses while making sure the program’s implementation is cost-effective.

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