02/27/2014 19:08 EST | Updated 04/29/2014 05:59 EDT

Gun debate reignites with rumoured ban of Classic Green rifle

The gun debate may be flaring up again over what appears to be the imminent ban of a semi-automatic military-style weapon that has been legal in Canada for a dozen years.

Gun enthusiasts got word of the ban Wednesday evening, although the RCMP has made no official announcement.

According to Solomon Friedman, a lawyer for the National Firearms Association, the PE-90 rifle, made by SAN Swiss Arms AG, a Switzerland-based small arms manufacturer, is about to be reclassified as a prohibited weapon in Canada.

Gun owners are getting ready to fight back against the ban, demanding compensation for their confiscated guns or even challenging the RCMP's reclassification.

In an email to a Calgary gun shop last year, William Etter, the RCMP's chief firearms officer, said the PE-90s, also known as Classic Greens, "may possibly be 'converted automatic' (C/A) firearms rather than semi-automatic firearms."

Automatic weapons are illegal in Canada; semi-automatics, limited to five rounds per magazine, are permitted to licensed owners.

J.R. Cox of The Shooting Edge, a Calgary gun store, said in a phone interview there are about 2,000 Classic Greens in Canada worth about $5,000 each.

Public safety minister involved

On CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Tony Bernardo of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association told host Evan Solomon "the minister" has been working with his group over the past 48 hours about the prohibition of the rifle.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney's office issued a statement late Thursday saying, "We are looking into this matter on an urgent basis. Our Conservative government is standing up for law-abiding gun owners."

Spokesman Jean-Christophe de Le Rue wrote, "Minister Blaney will take appropriate action to ensure that firearms owners who acted in good faith are not penalized as a result of the actions of others."

Bernardo said it was premature to assume the government wouldn't entertain the idea of full compensation. Asked how he could be sure, he said the government has talked to him.

Solomon told Power & Politics that having the RCMP deciding which guns should be prohibited was like "the fox guarding the henhouse." He said the RCMP is composed of "individuals who by their very nature are interested in limiting firearms in civilian hands."

Cox said that he owns 10 of the guns and stands to lose $50,000. He and his wife have "maxed out" donations to the Conservative Party, he said, but if he's out of pocket for giving up the Classic Greens he won't donate again.

The Conservatives have always defended gun owner rights, and in 2012 got rid of the gun registry that was the bane of most gun enthusiasts.

Bernardo said there is no legislation requiring the RCMP to compensate owners for moving a gun onto a prohibited list, although in the past, at its discretion, it has provided money when guns have been turned in due to a ban.

At the time of publication, the RCMP had not responded to calls from CBC News about the ban.