Should Canadians own “assault rifles”?

Border Security Minister BlairTrudeau tasks Blair with studying "gun violence" rather than gang violence

Before banning “assault rifles,” we need to know what they are.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair promises to report early in 2019 on the public conversation about whether Ottawa should ban handguns and assault weapons. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thinks a gun ban is good politics. When Minister Blair discovered that “assault rifles” were already banned, he changed his language to “assault-style” rifles in order to guarantee he could find something to ban that would win votes for the Liberals.

What is an “assault rifle”?

The term “assault rifle,” has a variety of definitions; some types were banned in the 1950s, others in the 1970s, more in the 1990s, and still others more recently [See the RCMP website for a complete list].

If what is meant by “assault rifle” is any semi-automatic long gun, there are millions in homes all across Canada with semi-automatic firearms.  Most of them are classified as ‘non-restricted;” but a few are “restricted.” Semi-auto long guns are quite popular for hunting and clay shooting, and are rarely used in criminal violence.

The semi-automatic action was invented around 1900 and has been one of the most popular actions for sporting firearms ever since. No military in the world uses this type of action. Estimates vary, but somewhere between 15% and 33% of legally owned firearms in Canada are semi-automatic.

Rifles vs handguns

Rifles of all sorts — including semi-automatic types — are infrequently used as murder weapons — either by gangsters or in spousal or family murders. They are no more dangers (or less dangerous) than any other type of firearm.  problem is handgun misuse.

Statistics Canada data shows that almost all firearms used to commit murder are illegally held.

The most recent comprehensive report by Statistics Canada on firearms in violent crime was in 2012 when they reported that long guns [eg rifles and shotguns] were involved in roughly 16% of all criminal violent incidents involving firearms; semi-automatic long guns would be a portion of these and “military style” semi-automatic long guns a still smaller percentage.

More recently, StatsCan reported that long guns of all kinds were involved in 22% of homicides.

Just 2% of homicides involved real, “assault rifles” — that is, fully automatic weapons — between 2008 through 2017, according to Statistics Canada.

Knives vs firearms

When it comes to guns, murderers prefer handguns by far, not rifles or shotguns. But knives are even more frequently used to commit murder than rifles — of any kind.

In the US, the NY Times analyzed American murder data and observed that 2% of the murders involved military style semi-automatic long guns {assault rifles} — like Canada, handguns are involved in most firearms murders.





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