OTTAWA (AFP) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday (May 1) announced an immediate ban on military-grade assault weapons, responding to a mass shooting and arson spree that left 22 people dead earlier this month.
“These weapons were designed for one purpose, and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time,” Trudeau told a news briefing.
He said his government has approved a decree banning the sale, purchase, use, transport and import of 1,500 models of military-grade assault weapons and variants of them.
“There is no use, and no place for such weapons in Canada,” Trudeau said.
The killing spree, the worst in Canadian history, began on the night of April 18 in Nova Scotia and led to a 13-hour manhunt for the shooter, who was eventually shot dead by police.
Authorities have said the assailant – identified as 51-year-old denturist Gabriel Wortman – was wearing a police uniform, driving a mock police car, and had several guns with him including at least one assault-style weapon.
Trudeau said there will be a two-year amnesty for people who currently own assault-style weapons to protect them from liability, and parliament will eventually pass legislation to compensate them for turning in their guns.
“For many families, including indigenous people, firearms are part of traditions passed down through generations, and the vast majority of gun owners use them safely, responsibly, and in accordance with the law, whether it be for work, sports shooting for collecting or for hunting,” Trudeau said.
“But you don’t need an AR-15 to bring down a deer,” he added.
Mass shootings are less common in Canada than in the US “but the heartbreaking truth is, they’re happening more often than they once did,” the prime minister said.
He mentioned for instance a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017 that left six dead and 19 wounded.
Trudeau made banning assault weapons part of his campaign for elections that brought him to power in 2015. He repeated it in the campaign for the October 2019 elections in which he won another term.
Nearly four of five Canadians back such a ban, according to an Angus Reid poll released Friday.
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