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How the upcoming Liberal ban of so-called “assault rifles” will likely unfold:

1. As a first step, it is most likely that draft Regulations will be filed before the House of Commons and Senate, purporting to list all specific models of firearms to be banned. It is “most likely” because Regulations enacted pursuant to the Criminal Code do not need to be filed before Parliament, whereas those enacted pursuant to the Firearms Act do need to be filed before both houses of Parliament. In this instance, these Regulations would be a hybrid if they entail any grandfathering (pursuant to the Firearms Act), as per Paragraph 2 below.

In effect, these Regulations will reclassify a certain number of firearms from their current category (either restricted or non-restricted) to prohibited status.  This is allowed pursuant to s. 84(1) and 117.15 (1) of the Criminal Code.

After review in Committee, the Regulations will be returned to the Governor in council and will become law by way of Order in Council (“OIC”).

Once the OIC is passed, the “tap will, be closed”.  No new so-called “assault rifles” can be manufactured or imported (except of course, to fulfill the needs of police, the armed forces and other government agencies).  Only those with grandfathered rights will be allowed to buy them.

What will be on the list is anyone’s guess.  It is worth mentioning that in New Zealand, the list of banned rifles included rifles such as the Browning BAR. It is not impossible that the Canadian government may follow suit.

2. In all likelyhood, the Regulations referred to in Paragraph 1 will also feature either one or both of the following:

a) The Regulations will provide for the grandfathering (albeit temporary) of individuals who own such firearms as of a “prescribed date»”, provided they are already registered, and/or the individuals register them by a “prescribed date” (i.e. deadline). Grandfathering is allowed pursuant to s. 12(9) of the Firearms Act, which was added by Bill C-71; and/or
b) The Regulations will provide for an amnesty period, during which any person who possesses such a firearm cannot be prosecuted, provided the firearm was legally acquired;

At least one of these features is essential to avoid turning all current owners of such firearms into overnight criminals, thus requiring that all such firearms be turned over to police overnight.  The Liberals will likely justify the grandfathering/amnesty by arguing that since a large number of such firearms are no longer registered (which they will blame on the CPC), some unscrupulous owners might be tempted to sell on the “black market”.  The registration requirement (for grandfathering) will also let them know who has what.

3.New legislation will be filed before the House of Commons. The proposed legislation will likely:

a) Create a mandatory buy-back scheme, and potentially allocate credits to the scheme;
b) Extend the amnesty period to the end of the buy-back period;
c) Extinguish licence rights (i.e. s. 12(9)) as of the end of the prescribed buy-back period. Hence, any individuals who will not comply will become criminals as of the end date of the buy-back period.

4. Passing of such legislation will follow the usual path through the HOC and the Senate. Its coming into force will likely require further OICs.  As a matter of fact, Minister Blair recently declared that we are likely two years away from implementation of a buy back scheme.