Four-in-five Canadians support complete ban on civilian possession of assault style weapons

Print this article
Font size 16+

Fewer, but still two-in-three, also say they support a ban on handguns

May 1, 2020 – With the Trudeau government poised to ban some “assault style” weapons, it finds significant support for a change first promised by the Liberals in 2015.

The results of the latest public opinion survey from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute show an overwhelming majority – nearly four-in-five – support a complete prohibition on civilian possession of the types of weapons used in the Montreal Massacre in 1989, and most recently, the rampage of an assault weapon-carrying murderer who killed 22 people in Nova Scotia last month.

Significantly, two-thirds (65%) strongly support such a move, giving federal policy makers a clear mandate to go forward.

Endorsement for the change transcends political and regional divides, although a slight majority of Canada’s current gun owners oppose it (55%).

More Key Findings:assault weapons ban canada

About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.

Widespread support for banning assault weapons, handguns

Half say gun laws need to be stricter

Widespread support for banning assault weapons, handguns

As Nova Scotians and Canadians across the country continue to mourn the loss of 22 people, killed in a mass shooting in April, the Liberal government appears set to move on a long-promised ban on assault weapons in Canada.

Importantly, the classification of an “assault weapon” is not currently a term with legal definition in Canada. In its recent research, however, the federal government describes this type of weapon as “semi-automatic firearms with a large magazine of ammunition that were designed and configured for rapid fire.” These include the AR-15 that was used in the Nova Scotia shooting, the Ruger Mini-14, used in the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in Montreal in 1989, and the CSA-VZ-58, which was carried by the gunman in the Quebec Mosque shooting in 2017.

These weapons and others are expected to be banned by the Liberal government through an order-in-council. The ban is something the vast majority of Canadians have been supportive of in recent years. Nearly four-in-five Canadians canvassed between April 28 – 30 say they support a complete ban on civilian possession of such weapons. While opinions may have hardened slightly after the tragedy in Nova Scotia, it is worth noting that support for such a ban was already at this level last year when the Angus Reid Institute studied the issue:

A proposed ban, however, generates more pushback among Canadian gun owners. For reference, about 13 per cent of Canadians say that they currently own a gun, while the same number say that they have owned one previously but do not currently:

These current and previous gun owners feel differently about banning assault weapons – and handguns. Majorities of current gun owners, for instance, are more likely to oppose each ban (although it is a slight majority when it comes to assault weapons). By contrast, former gun owners are overwhelmingly in favour of banning assault weapons, but very narrowly support the prospect of a handgun ban.

Regionally, people in Quebec and Nova Scotia, places that bear the deep scars of gun violence, are most likely to support banning assault weapons. That said, two-thirds in each part of the country support such a prohibition.

Albertans and Prairie residents are less certain about a ban on handguns than the rest of the country:

Meanwhile, the Liberal government’s support base in the most recent election is among the most supportive of a ban on each type of weapon, along with those who supported the NDP last fall. Most past Conservative voters oppose a ban on handguns but support one on assault weapons.

Half say gun laws need to be stricter

Looking more broadly at the question of Canada’s gun laws, half of Canadians (49%) are of the opinion that these regulations need to be stricter. One-third of Canadians (34%) feel that the gun laws in place are striking a good balance, while 13 per cent feel they are too strict. Interestingly, those who identify as knowing the ins and outs of the laws are divided between whether the laws are about right (39%), too strict (36%) or not strict enough (24%).

Confidence in RCMP largely unchanged

During and after the mass shooting in Nova Scotia, serious questions were raised over the RCMP’s reaction to the incident. For example, why did the force use social media rather than the province’s central alert system to update residents about the ongoing incident?

This, and broader concerns have been noted by the Canadian Association of Journalists that the RCMP in Canada have been “very inconsistent” in their dealings with media and their transparency.

Despite these issues (which will linger as the RCMP reviews the incident) public confidence in the institution does not appear to have deteriorated significantly. Overall, 57 per cent of Canadians say that they have confidence in the policing body, consistent with polling done over the past three years.

Of note: Nova Scotians do not lack confidence in the RCMP working within their province. Confidence, in fact, is higher in Nova Scotia than any other region of the country.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics,

For detailed results by knowledge of gun control laws and gun ownership,

Shachi Kurl, Executive Director: 604.908.1693  @shachikurl