Assault Weapons: Was our 30-year battle for gun control really all for naught?

By Serge St-Arneault

Many of the families of the victims of the December 6, 1989, Polytechnique tragedy in Montreal, have been working for thirty years to eliminate assault weapons from our communities and our streets. This has never been achieved, not even during the brief decade that the long-gun registry was in effect, which was abolished by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2012. Since then, many innocent people have been injured or killed by assault weapons legally acquired under Canadian law, like the victims of the Dawson College school shooting. Logically, these weapons should be strictly limited to military personnel.

For sure, we are so far not even close to what is happening in the United States, where gun violence is out of control. Nearly 40,000 Americans were killed by guns in 2017. That’s one murder every fifteen minutes. Unfortunately for Canadians, we are increasingly mimicking the US culture that values gun ownership. Both shootings of a 15-year-old girl in Montreal on February 7th and of a 14-year-old girl in Toronto on February 12th testify to that.

In the last election, the Liberal Party of Canada promised to ban military-style assault weapons. They promised to implement a buy-back program for “all” assault weapons. In May 2020, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a series of Orders in Council that made it no longer legal “to buy, sell, transport, import or use military-grade assault weapons in this country”.

Yet despite polls invariably showing 80% of Canadians support a ban on assault weapons as well as one conducted by Environics Research (on behalf of PolySeSouvient) showing that despite the pandemic, a clear majority still want the Liberal government to buy back all existing ones, we were dismayed to learn through media reports that the forthcoming bill will go in the opposite direction, with the buyback, while mandatory in New Zealand and in Australia, will not be mandatory in Canada.

As long as they remain in circulation, these killing machines represent a major public safety risk.

For example, Corey Hurren, the 46-year-old Manitoba Reservist, avowed QAnon follower, licensed gun owner and avid gun control opponent, had in possession at least one of these weapons, a newly prohibited Norinco M14 rifle, as well as a Lakefield Mossberg shotgun, a Dominion Arms shotgun and a high-capacity magazine when he rammed his truck through the gates of Rideau Hall on July 2, 2020. He wanted to “arrest” Prime Minister Trudeau because of COVID-19 restrictions and the recent assault weapon ban, leaving behind a letter in which he wrote, “he hopes his children would understand his actions”.

We are not so naïve as to imagine that owners of grandfathered assault weapon will henceforth consider them as “souvenirs” from the good old days when they could shoot them. They know full well that a future O’Toole-led Conservative government will repeal the ban — as he has already pledged to do. And when this happens, we will be back at square one.

These killing machines, as well as handguns, will continue to proliferate and the NRA ideology will continue to seep into the bowels of our country.

And it will be the end of our battle that began over thirty years ago.

My sister Annie was assassinated in a classroom with a military-style assault weapon. With the anticipated federal bill, this kind of tragedy can and will happen again. If it is indeed the intent of the Liberals to break the promise that we loudly and publicly applauded and that contributed to their 2019 victory, then we will have been manipulated in order to win them votes. This is nothing less than a betrayal.

Gun victims and their families, past, present and future, will remember this sinister political calculation.


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