Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is promising to ban all military-style assault rifles as part of a broader gun-control plan that would also take steps towards giving cities more powers to restrict and ban handguns.
Trudeau made the pledge Friday in Toronto as he tried to get his campaign back on track after spending Thursday apologizing for wearing blackface years ago.
The announcement took place in the city’s Greektown neighbourhood, where a gunman killed two people and wounded 13 others last year. The issue of gun control is important for many voters in Toronto, which is also a critical region for the Liberals’ re-election hopes in next month’s election.
Trudeau said the pledge to ban assault rifles includes outlawing the semi-automatic AR-15, the weapon used in many recent mass shootings in the United States.
“We know you do not need a military-grade assault weapon – one designed to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time – to take down a deer,” Trudeau said.
He said in 2017 there were 2,500 more victims of gun violence in Canada than in 2013. Trudeau also acknowledged that despite his government’s efforts not enough has been done to address the issue.
Under the plan, the Liberals pledged to work with provinces and territories to empower municipalities to further restrict or ban handguns.
WATCH: What’s the likelihood of a handgun ban being implemented in Toronto?
Trudeau promised to protect the rights of law-abiding hunters and vowed not to re-establish the long-gun registry that was scrapped by the previous Conservative government.
The proposal also includes pledges to create a buy-back program for all legally purchased assault rifles and a two-year amnesty while the program is being set up.
The Liberal campaign is likely hoping the event will turn the page on the controversy over images that surfaced in recent days of Trudeau wearing skin-darkening paint years ago in three different instances.
The story made international headlines and caught the attention of other world leaders.
“I was hoping I wouldn’t be asked that question,” U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters in the Oval Office earlier Friday.
WATCH: Trump asked if he thinks Trudeau can survive blackface controversy
“I’m surprised and I was more surprised when I saw the number of times and I’ve always had a good relationship with Justin,” Trump said while sitting beside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“I just don’t know what to tell you. I was surprised by it, actually.”
Trudeau, who has said he deeply regretted donning blackface and is embarrassed by the actions that he’s called racist, was asked about how the story might affect his international credibility.
WATCH: Trudeau continues to face questions about blackface controversy on campaign trail
“My focus is on Canadians who face discrimination every day, Canadians who are racialized, who live with intolerance and marginalization as part of their daily experience – who I hurt,” Trudeau said.
“I apologize deeply to them and I will focus on continuing what I have tried to do as a leader, which is to always stand against racism and discrimination at home and on the world stage.”
Trudeau also said he planned to call NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to offer an apology. Singh, the first member of a visible minority to lead a federal political party, is a Sikh who wears a turban as part of his faith.