OTTAWA — Seven members of a parliamentary committee studying the Liberal gun bill have requested two special meetings to hear from witnesses on the government's proposed definition of an assault-style firearm.
The definition, put forward by the government as an amendment, has prompted confusion and controversy as MPs go over Bill C-21 clause by clause.
The seven Liberal, Bloc Québécois and New Democrat MPs want clarity on the amendment amid concerns that the measure would outlaw many firearms commonly used by hunters.
In a letter to the committee chairman, the members say they were not able to question witnesses about the amendment because groups and experts had already completed their testimony.
"We believe it is in the public interest to untangle and clarify the impacts of this amendment on Bill C-21 and the future of firearms in this country," the letter says.
Among other technical specifications concerning bore diameter and muzzle energy, the proposed definition includes a centrefire semi-automatic rifle or shotgun designed to accept a detachable magazine that can hold more than five cartridges.
MPs are poring over the latest list of firearms that would fall under the definition, which runs into the hundreds of pages.
Although Conservative MPs on the committee were not involved in the request for more witnesses, they have spoken out against the proposed amendment, characterizing it as an attack on law-abiding gun owners.
It was unclear on Thursday when — or even if — any additional meetings to hear witnesses would take place.
"I want to make sure we do whatever we can, and we are all committed to taking down the temperature wherever we can, to listen to whatever perspectives are out there and to have a healthy discussion based on facts," Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed said during a committee meeting Thursday.
"This will hopefully allow us to hear from witnesses to address any of the outstanding issues that exist to improve the proposed law were appropriate, and to give Canadians the confidence that their government is listening."
Noormohamed thanked committee member and Bloc MP Kristina Michaud for coming up with the idea of hearing additional testimony.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that through some "fine-tuning" of the wording, the government wants to enshrine a ban on assault-style firearms in the bill while ensuring it does not go after shotguns and rifles that are primarily used for hunting.
"The definition is something that we are very much committed to, but the actual list that goes with it, that’s something that we're consulting on right now."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press