A Conservative MP sponsored a petition last month calling on the federal government to loosen controls around the rifle used in Sunday's mass shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead.
Bob Zimmer, MP for the British Columbia riding of Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, presented the petition in the House of Commons on May 13. The petition, which garnered more than 25,000 signaturesfrom across the country and around the world, asks the Public Safety Minister to reclassify the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and return it to non-restricted status.
"We, the undersigned, lawful firearm owners of Canada, request (or call upon) the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness to reclassify the Armalite Rifle-15 back to non-restricted status so we can once again use this rifle to lawfully participate in the Canadian cultural practices of hunting," the petition reads.
Such rifles have been used in a number of mass shootings in the United States, including the attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people and wounded 53 early Sunday morning. It was also used in last year's terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., and the 2012 shootings at a cinema in Aurora, Colo., as well as Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The AR-15 is the civilian version of the M16 rifle used by the U.S. army and is capable of spraying dozens of rounds from a single magazine. Canadian law limits magazines in semi-automatic rifles and handguns to five cartridges.
Speaking in the House last month, Mr. Zimmer said he was "honoured" to present the petition. He tabled it on behalf of Marc Bennett, a firearms advocate from Newfoundland and Labrador.
Mr. Zimmer did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. A spokesperson from the office of interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said the party's caucus has no position on the petition.
The petition argues that there is "no inherent difference" between the AR-15 and the "hundreds or thousands of other firearms in Canada" that are classified as non-restricted. It goes on to claim that the gun is the "most versatile hunting rifle in the world."
"This rifle has been ultimately restricted purely because of cosmetic appearance of the rifle, which does not make the rifle more dangerous," according to the petition.
The petition says the rifle was legal for hunting purposes in Canada before firearms classification changes in the mid-1990s. The signatories – more than 7,300 of whom are from Ontario, 5,700 from Alberta and 5,200 from B.C. – would like that opportunity restored.
While the Liberal government has not yet responded to the petition, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Monday that the government is committed to getting assault weapons off Canada's streets.
"Our section on the [Liberal Party election] platform dealing with firearms was headlined around the issue of illegal handguns and assault weapons, and our commitment is to take a number of very strong, very sensible steps to get those weapons off our streets," he told reporters.
The Liberal platform also committed to put decision making about weapons restrictions "back in the hands of police, not politicians." Mr. Goodale said he has not received any advice from the RCMP suggesting any changes to the current restrictions.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that fact that Canadian law limits magazines in semi-automatic rifles to five cartridges.