Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced an immediate ban on military-grade assault weapons in response to the country’s deadliest-ever mass shooting, a rampage that left 22 people dead last 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 that his government has approved a decree banning the sale, purchase, use, transport and import of 1,500 models of military-grade assault weapons and their variants.
“There is no use and no place for such weapons in Canada,” Trudeau said.
The killing spree began on the night of April 18 in Nova Scotia and led to a 13-hour search for the shooter, who was eventually shot dead by police.
Authorities have said that the assailant — identified as 51-year-old denturist Gabriel Wortman — was wearing a police uniform, driving a mock police vehicle and had several guns with him, including at least one assault-style weapon.
“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.”
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.
“Events like the recent tragedy in Nova Scotia, the attack in 2017 at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec and the massacre that took place in 1989 at the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal should never have happened,” Trudeau added.
On Jan. 29, 2017, a man known for his far-right, nationalist sympathies opened fire on worshippers praying at the Quebec City mosque, killing six people and seriously injuring several others. On Dec. 6, 1989, a 25-year-old man claiming to be an “anti-feminist” burst into classrooms at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, armed with a gun and a knife, and shot exclusively at women, killing 13 female students and a secretary.
That tragedy, at the time unprecedented in Canada, led to the creation in 1995 of a mandatory gun registry, but it was abolished for hunting guns in 2012.
Trudeau made banning assault weapons part of his campaign for elections that brought him to power in 2015 and he repeated the pledge while campaigning for the October 2019 elections, in which he won another term.
Nearly four out of five Canadians back such a ban, according to an Angus Reid poll released on Friday, but division on the issue between urban and rural elected officials within Trudeau’s Liberal Party had led him to stall until now.
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