AR-15 owners in Canada have at least eighteen more months to consider their options.
That’s because the Canadian government extended the amnesty period to relinquish or destroy newly banned weapons on Wednesday. Though the original deadline was next month, affected gun owners will now enjoy amnesty until October 30th of next year.
“This will allow time to ensure that officials can finalize and fully implement a robust mandatory buyback program and allow firearms owners and businesses to take all reasonable steps to come into compliance with the law,” Public Safety Canada, the government division in charge of administering the ban and buyback program, said in a press release.
The decision provides temporary relief for the estimated 72,000 gun owners who are being forced to turn in their licensed and registered “assault-style firearms” or risk facing criminal liability. They will still be prohibited from using the prohibited firearms, but they will now be free to continue possessing the weapons without fear of prosecution for a little while longer.
The buyback scheme is the result of a May 2020 regulation from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau banning the sale and possession of 1,500 “assault weapons” by make and model. It was enacted in response to a high-profile mass shooting in Nova Scotia where a gunman used illegally-obtained weapons to murder 22 people.
The announcement is another setback in the Canadian government’s confiscation effort. It plan to collect the affected weapons has been rife with problems since it was announced. Consulting fees and planning for the enforcement of the ban have resulted in a bloated budget before even a single weapon has been “bought back.” Furthermore, a concrete plan for the buyback program has been slow to develop. Canadian officials said the development of a workable program was still in early stages as recently as February of this year, just two months before the original deadline.
Gun owners have been hesitant to turn in their newly prohibited firearms, and Canadian gun rights groups have mobilized against the confiscation plan.
Rod Giltaca, executive director of the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights, told The Reload the government’s amnesty extension was inevitable because of its inability to create a workable buyback plan after two years.
“The government had three choices in this case,” he said. “The first was to launch the buyback and leave enough time before the end of the amnesty to complete it. The second, to extend the amnesty to protect licensed gun owners from prosecution for the unauthorized possession of their now prohibited firearms. And the third, let the amnesty run out and criminalize hundreds of thousands of fully compliant, licensed gun owners. There was really only one choice for a legitimate government to make seeing they have nothing accomplished on the gun buyback to date.”
His group is currently suing the Canadian government over the weapons ban and confiscation order. It filed a request for an injunction against the ending of the amnesty period prior to the government’s announcement of an extension.
Giltaca said the postponement of the amnesty deadline will buy affected gun owners much-needed time. He said the upcoming election may be the solution to stopping the confiscation effort.
“They are protected from criminal prosecution until either the government decides how they are going to confiscate these firearms, or this government is replaced in a general election,” he said. “It’s no secret that this Liberal Government is wasteful and generally incompetent, but gun owners should be thankful for the delay as this gives us the opportunity for a ruling on our court case. Our case involves a constitutional question on property rights, and that should be of interest to all Canadians.”
Public Safety Canada did not respond to a request for comment.