Canadian flag waving in front of the Parliament Building on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
A Canadian flag flies in front of the parliament building | Photo by Jason Hafso on Unsplash

Canadians Aren’t Turning in Their Guns

Few gun owners are turning in weapons recently been made illegal by the Canadian government.

That’s according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). They said Canadians had only turned in 160 of the recently-outlawed firearms for destruction since the announcement of the ban.

“The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) can confirm that, as of December 9, 2021, 18 firearms (formerly classified as restricted) affected by the May 1, 2020 Order in Council (OIC) have been deactivated,” Sgt. Caroline Duval, an RCMP spokesperson, told iPolitics on Friday. “In addition, there have been 142 OIC-affected firearms recorded as surrendered to a public agency for destruction since May 1, 2020.”

The announcement comes as the April 2022 deadline for the “assault weapon” confiscation order rapidly approaches. The Canadian government’s plan to collect the affected weapons has been rife with problems since it was announced. Consulting fees and enforcement planning have resulted in a bloated budget before even a single weapon has been “bought back,” and a concrete plan for the buyback program is yet to be finalized. It now appears affected gun owners are hesitant to give up their guns.

The difficulties experienced by the Canadian effort and a similar gun confiscation effort in New Zealand may impact the debate over implementing a similar policy in the United States. While gun-control advocates have shunned confiscation policies in the past, some Democrats have warmed to the idea of taking AR-15s and similar guns in recent years. Congressman Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) wrote an op-ed in favor of confiscation in 2018. Vice President Kamala Harris said she supports a mandatory buyback scheme similar to Canada’s policy during a 2020 presidential primary forum hosted by gun-control group March For Our Lives. Beto O’Rourke garnered much attention when he declared, “hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47” during the same campaign. He has stuck with the policy since entering the 2022 Texas gubernatorial race despite the idea polling poorly.

Compensation for affected weapons has added to the uncertainty surrounding the Canadian effort. RCMP officials said that despite currently being unable to use the lawfully-acquired-but-recently-outlawed firearms in their possession, gun owners would not be compensated for turning them in before the buyback deadline.

“If an individual or business were to relinquish a newly prohibited firearm or device before the implementation of the buyback program, they won’t be eligible for compensation once the program is announced,” they said.

But officials also suggested it was unclear when the government would announce the program.

“Government officials are currently in the process of refining requirements and developing program design and implementation options for a buyback program,” they said.

The buyback scheme is the result of a May 2020 regulation from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau banning 1,500 “assault weapons” by make and model. It was enacted in response to a high-profile mass shooting in Nova Scotia, in which a gunman used illegally-obtained weapons to murder 22 people.

The ban provided a two-year amnesty period from its announcement for gun owners to comply but prohibited them from using any weapon affected by the ban going forward. The government estimates that approximately 72,000 gun owners and 105,000 firearms are affected by the policy.

With such a low rate of gun owners relinquishing their weapons up to this point, further doubt has been cast on the feasibility of making gun owners comply by the April 30, 2022 deadline.

If a significant number do not turn in their guns over the next four months, the government will have to decide whether to take criminal action against Canadian gun owners for keeping guns they legally purchased.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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