Reclassified guns get temporary amnesty

Swiss Arms Classic Green semi-automatic rifle


OTTAWA - Owners of popular rifles that the RCMP has re-classified as "prohibited" will be protected by a new federal amnesty.

"I will bring forward an amnesty to ensure that individuals in possession of these firearms can continue to possess their property without threat of criminal charges," Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said Monday.

However, Blaney has not explained how long the amnesty will be in place, which rifles are included, or how gun owners are allowed to use the firearms suddenly banned last week. Several Conservative MPs have expressed outrage that the RCMP switched the Classic Green family of Swiss Arms rifles from restricted or non-restricted to prohibited weapons.

Saskatchewan MP Garry Breitkreuz says the Mounties' decision made no sense.

"To change the status of something that's been legal for firearm owners to have I think is unacceptable without, you know, proper consultation," said Breitkreuz. "If something is fine for a dozen years and then suddenly somebody has a problem with its appearance, I think we've got issues.

Breitkreuz says an amnesty gives the feds time to "correct this problem in the long term."

Still, the National Firearms Association (NFA) says the amnesty isn't good enough.

"Telling us that there's going to be an amnesty period is basically just delayed theft," said NFA executive vice president Shawn Bevins.

It's estimated that there are about 1,800 Swiss Arms rifles in Canada, each costing up to $4,000.

Breitkeuz also says it might be best if firearms classifications decisions were taken out of the Mounties' hands.

"I really feel that at some point we have to look at a committee of experts, maybe at arms length to the government "¦ that would deal with the classification issue," he said. NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison says classification should be "based on public safety, without political interference."

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