03/03/2014 08:03 EST | Updated 05/03/2014 05:59 EDT

Swiss Arms rifle owners granted amnesty by government

The federal government has granted amnesty to owners of Swiss Arms Classic Green semi-automatic rifles, who will be able to continue to possess their guns "without threat of criminal charges," according to a statement from the public safety minister's office.

Although the guns have been sold in Canada for a dozen years, the RCMP had been investigating a small group of rifles similar to the Classic Greens that were brought into Canada from the small arms manufacturer in Switzerland eight months ago,

These guns were repainted and modified versions of used models purchased in Switzerland. In an email to one of the stores that was selling the guns, the RCMP said they suspected the guns could be converted to automatic weapons.

Automatic weapons are banned in Canada. Semi-automatics are allowed as long as their magazines hold only five rounds.

It's not clear why the RCMP decided to prohibit a whole class of guns, including about 2,000 that had been legally purchased in Canada. The RCMP did not make an announcement about the ban and has not answered calls or emails from CBC News.

The National Firearms Association published the news about the ban on its Facebook page and website, and portrayed the prohibition as the beginning of a siege on other types of guns.

"Access to Information records show that RCMP have an aggressive firearms reclassification agenda and that prohibitions will not stop with the Swiss Arms series rifles," the association said.

Conservative MPs support 'law-abiding gun owners'

Monday afternoon, after the matter had been brought up by Conservative MPs in the House of Commons who promised to support law-abiding gun owners, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney's office issued a statement announcing the amnesty.

"The minister announced his intent to bring forward an amnesty to ensure that individuals in possession of these firearms can continue to possess their property without threat of criminal charges," wrote spokesman Jean-Christophe de Le Rue.

J.R. Cox, who operates The Shooting Edge, a Calgary gun store, told CBC the military-style carbines are the most expensive on the market, costing about $4,000.

"There is a movement within the RCMP and they don't like to see guns in the hands of anybody but themselves," he said about the Mounties' attempt to put them on a prohibited list.