Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is trying to find the dividing line between guns suitable for hunting and ones that have no place in society because they pose significant dangers in the wrong hands.

While the effort is sparking debate, it's up to society to figure out "where that line is going to be," Trudeau said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press.

"There isn't a single Canadian anywhere out there that doesn't want to see less gun crime, that doesn't want to see safer communities. We're all united on that," he said. "There are disagreements on how to go about it the best possible way."

The government wants to reinforce a May 2020 regulatory ban on an array of guns it considers assault-style firearms by enshrining a comprehensive definition in a bill being studied by the House of Commons public safety committee.

Among other technical specifications concerning bore diameter and muzzle energy, the proposed definition includes a centrefire semi-automatic rifle or shotgun designed with a detachable magazine that can hold more than five cartridges.

MPs are sifting the latest list of firearms that would fall under the proposed definition, which runs into the hundreds of pages.

There is confusion over exactly what is included and what is not, because the definition applies only to some variations of certain models that meet the criteria — guns the government considers inappropriate for civilian use.

The definition has prompted applause from gun-control advocates as a step forward, but howls of protest from Conservative MPs and gun-rights groups who say it targets commonly used hunting rifles and shotguns.

The government had long signalled it would try to enshrine a definition in legislation, but the wording was put forward as an amendment during clause-by-clause review of the bill, rankling some MPs because witness testimony had already wrapped up.

Society must decide where 'line is going to be' on assault-style firearms: Trudeau. #CDNPoli #GunControl #AssaultStyleFirearms

Trudeau said he intends to follow through on his promise to outlaw firearms designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible while respecting the legitimate needs of hunters and others who rely on rifles and shotguns.

"Obviously there are people who will have, right now, guns that are on the line, that are probably more powerful or more convenient than you'd really need for hunting," he said.

"And as a society, we have to figure out where that line is going to be. And no matter where you draw that line there's going to be people on one side or the other who feels it should have been one way or the other."

The government's approach was the right one to take, he said. "But I'm always open to tweaks."

Trudeau acknowledged there is more work to do on refining the definition, as his minority government requires the support of at least one other party to ensure passage of the measures.

The public safety committee met Tuesday to discuss a suggestion from Kristina Michaud of the Bloc Québécois to suspend clause-by-clause review of the bill and hear witnesses on the definition.

Michaud suggested two additional hearings. Another proposal would see the committee hold eight more sessions, including travel to the North to hear Indigenous witnesses.

Committee members did not finalize the arrangements and plan to resume the discussion Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2022.

Keep reading