Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is launching the long-promised buyback program for what he has described as “assault” or “assault-style” firearms.

The buyback program is part of a suite of new gun control measures promised by the federal Liberals in the 2019 election campaign, and follows the announcement of an executive order last May that changed the classification listings to prohibit roughly 1,500 “assault-style” weapons.

While terms like “assault-style” and “assault rifle” are not legal classifications in Canada, they are frequently used colloquially by gun control advocates and the government to describe the type of high-capacity, quick-fire guns targeted by the ban.

Trudeau had said last May that legislation to implement a buyback program would not be introduced until the immediate crisis of the coronavirus pandemic was under control.

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He had also stressed it would take time to come up with a proposal that could win support from at least one other party in a minority Parliament.

“We’ve charted a plan of action,” he said, noting the buyback program will be finalized in the coming months and will prevent those weapons from being bequeathed or sold.

“You can’t fight gun violence or any violence on just one front.”

The legislation will also allow municipalities to ban handguns through bylaws restricting their possession, storage and transportation. Trudeau said the measures will be backed up with serious penalties to enforce these bylaws, including jail time for people who violate municipal rules.

Many gun control advocates have pressed for a national handgun ban, warning that leaving it up to municipalities would create an ineffective patchwork of regulations.

The bill will also increase criminal penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking, and enhance the capacity of police and border officers to keep illegal firearms out of the country.

It also creates new offences for altering the cartridge magazine of a firearm and introduces tighter restrictions on importing ammunition.

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Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the legislation, tabled Tuesday morning in the House of Commons, will not allow the owners of the prohibited firearms will not be allowed to bequeath them to others, or to continue to use them under “grandfathering” policies.

He said those who choose not to sell their weapons back to the government will be held responsible if the weapons “end up in the hands of criminals.”

“Gun ownership in this country is a privilege, not a right,” Blair said.

“We do not arm ourselves in this country to protect ourselves from our fellow citizens. We rely on the rule of law, not the end of a gun, for our safety.”

More to come.

With files from The Canadian Press.