OTTAWA — A firearm advocacy group says the Liberal government's effort to ban a wide variety of rifles is being driven by ideology, not public safety.
But the federal Liberals say it's all about prohibiting guns designed to kill people, and hunters will still have thousands of types of rifles and shotguns available to them.
The government wants to include an evergreen definition of a prohibited assault-style firearm in gun-control legislation being studied by the House of Commons public safety committee.
The measure would build on a May 2020 regulatory ban of over 1,500 models and variants of what the government considers assault-style firearms, such as the AR-15 and the Ruger Mini-14.
The government is going after millions of licensed gun owners who have done nothing to deserve it, Rod Giltaca, CEO of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, told a news conference on Wednesday.
The lack of evidence for doing so "just screams that it's ideological," he said.
"We've definitely seen all of this coming, because we've said all along their plan is to ban all firearms from civilian ownership in Canada."
Tracey Wilson, the group's vice-president of public relations, said the government should go back to the drawing board and take a hard look at what really needs to be done to make Canada a safer country.
"It's pretty clear that they've created a huge mess," she said. "It's not appeasing anybody. It does not have a significant, positive impact on public safety."
Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed told the Commons committee this week that nobody is trying to vilify hunters. Rather, the government is focusing on "weapons that should be banned because they have been responsible for taking of life — killing human beings."
The government's planned definition of an assault-style firearm is intended to ensure gun manufacturers can't tweak designs of prohibited firearms in a bid to get around the ban and reintroduce them to the Canadian market.
Among other technical specifications, the proposed definition includes a centrefire semi-automatic rifle or shotgun designed to accept a detachable magazine that can hold more than five cartridges.
The latest list of firearms to be covered by the ban, tabled as an amendment at the public safety committee, has sparked debate over exactly what is included and what is not.
That's because the definition applies only to some variations of certain models, depending on bore diameter and muzzle energy.
The Conservatives claim the government's definition amounts to the most significant hunting rifle ban in the history of Canada.
Conservative MP Eric Melillo, who represents the western Ontario riding of Kenora, told the Commons committee this week the ban "is not actually going to address the issues that they're hoping to address."
Melillo said taking guns from rural hunters in his riding, including Indigenous people who shoot animals for food, is not going to make cities any safer.
Noormohamed, citing numbers from a Department of Justice official, said that once the new definition comes into force, there would still be as many as 20,000 types of firearms that would be classified as non-restricted and could be used for hunting.
"We've heard a lot that we are coming after all hunting rifles and all shotguns. I just want to make sure that we clear up any misinformation out there in that regard."
Noormohamed indicated the government was open to going through the list of prohibited guns in committee and removing any individual ones that don't belong.
"If there are items on this list that the Conservatives feel strongly about, there is a process," he said. "Let's have a discussion about it."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2022.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press