Our neighbors to the north could soon see their right to own firearms greatly reduced, as Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called upon Canada's federal government to launch a long-promised buyback program for "assault-style" firearms including AR-15s.
Canada's Gun Buyback Plan, Explained
The buyback program is just one part of a suite of new gun control measures that were promised by federal Liberals in the 2019 campaign. Under the plan, some 1,500 different types of firearms could fall under the classification of "assault-style" even as the term is not a legal classification. Already fully-automatic weapons, as well as high-capacity magazines, are banned in Canada.
Trudeau had originally proposed to introduce the legislation last spring, but the buyback program was impacted by the novel coronavirus outbreak. Now the PM has called for efforts to move forward and introduced Bill C-21. It would give a two-year amnesty period from May of last year to those who own those newly banned firearms to turn them over to the Canadian government.
According to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the government would be able to determine a cost when it gets a sense of how many firearm owners would seek compensation. It was estimated that some 150,000 to 200,000 of the assault-style firearms would be surrendered with an average compensation of $1,300 ($1,000 U.S.). The estimate was that it would cost the Canadian government $300 to $400 million (Canadian) to buy back the firearms.
President Joe Biden has called for a similar ban in the United States, and there are now estimated to be upwards of 10 million AR-15s in private citizen hands. To buy just those firearms back could cost the U.S. government – by way of taxpayers - $10 billion.
What a Biden "Assault Weapons" Buy Back Might Really Cost
While the $10 billion figure above might seem like a lot, that number depends on what Team Biden bans as an "assault-style" firearm, a term with a meaning that varies across the United States.
Given those issues, it isn't even clear what long guns and sporting pistols would fall into Biden's "assault weapons ban." That could include every commercial modern sporting rifle – AR-15s, AR-10s – but also commercial AKs, HKs, SIG Sauers, and countless other platforms that are semi-automatic and feature a profile that remotely resembles a military rifle but functions completely differently.
Factor in historic firearms including the Soviet Bloc SKS rifles, FN FALs, and other firearms sold as surplus, and the number of potentially banned guns could exceed 100 million and could be as many as 200 million. At an average price of $1,000 the cost to taxpayers could reach $100 billion.
While still a far cry from the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, a question must be asked where this money would come from – and the only logical answer would be raising taxes. It is conceivable some liberals out there might not mind paying a tax to "get dangerous" guns of the streets, but in the end, it would be law-abiding gun owners who have to pay increased taxes to fund this purchase, essentially negating the proceeds they received from a "buyback."
Then it is possible that the United States could grandfather in those firearms, and use a tactic that Canada may adopt. As CBC reported, "Those who keep their blacklisted weapons would have to abide by strict conditions. They would have to agree not to use the weapons, to import or acquire any more of them or to bequeath them to anyone else."
It would take decades – perhaps longer – before that had any meaningful impact on the usefulness of guns. But it could be adopted in a way that when the owner passes away the firearm is thus handed into law enforcement. For gun owners that would be a mixed blessing – they could take a cue from Second Amendment supporter and former NRA head Charlton Heston who famously said, "from my cold dead hands," but even that would take decades for the government to finally have a complete ban of private ownership of the guns.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.