OTTAWA — The Liberal government is moving ahead with efforts to keep assault-style firearms out of the hands of Canadians, Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Monday.
LeBlanc, who assumed the portfolio over the summer, told a Senate committee the government will enact regulations to complement gun-control legislation being studied by members of the upper chamber.
The government bill includes a ban on assault-style firearms that would apply once the legislation comes into force.
LeBlanc said planned regulatory changes will ensure a mandatory physical inspection by the RCMP of all new firearm models before they enter the Canadian market.
However, people can still buy many such guns currently for sale in Canada.
LeBlanc reaffirmed federal plans to re-establish the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee to independently review the classification of existing models that fall under the prospective new definition of a prohibited firearm in the bill.
He said the exercise would identify guns legitimately used for hunting, which would be excluded from the ban.
LeBlanc said the government would also implement a long-planned buyback of some 1,500 firearm models and variants banned through order-in-council in May 2020.
"We are taking the time to get this program right and looking forward to keeping businesses and responsible gun owners apprised of the next steps as we move forward in this direction," he told the senators.
In addition, the government will enact regulations to ensure a comprehensive ban on large-capacity magazines, LeBlanc said.
The federal bill would cement restrictions on handguns, increase penalties for firearm trafficking and try to curb homemade ghost guns.
The Conservatives oppose the legislation, saying it penalizes law-abiding firearm owners instead of targeting criminal gun violence.
Objections from the Tories and some gun owners over the initial scope of the assault-style firearm ban sparked an uproar that sidelined the bill for months in the House of Commons.
The Commons eventually passed the bill earlier this year with the support of Liberal, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green members of Parliament.
"This bill isn't dealing with illegal guns in the hands of criminals, this bill is dealing with legal guns in the hands of hunters and sport shooters," Senate Opposition leader Don Plett said Monday.
LeBlanc told Plett he disagrees with his characterization "that we're taking guns away from lawful hunters and sports persons."
"That phrase gets repeated over and over again — it doesn't make it true," LeBlanc said.
"The focus has to be on the illegal use of firearms to commit criminal offences — that should unite us all. On that I think you and I would agree quite easily."
Upon introducing the bill last year, the Liberals announced a plan to implement a freeze on importing, buying, selling or otherwise transferring handguns to help reduce firearm-related violence. Federal regulations aimed at capping the number of handguns in Canada are now in effect.
The bill has measures that would reinforce the handgun freeze. The legislation would also allow for the removal of gun licences from people engaged in family violence, as well as increase maximum penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking to 14 years from 10.
Gun-control group PolySeSouvient welcomed LeBlanc's statements to the committee Monday, calling his message "strong and unequivocal."
The group, which represents survivors and families of the 1989 École Polytechnique mass shooting, said it is "once again optimistic regarding the government’s plan" to deliver on repeated promises to ban assault-style firearms and large-capacity magazines.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2023.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press