Toronto — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced legislation Monday that would put a freeze on importing, buying or selling handguns.
“We are capping the number of handguns in this country,” Trudeau said.
The regulations to halt the growth of personally owned handguns is expected to be enacted this fall.
“It will be illegal to buy, sell, transfer or import handguns anywhere in Canada,” the prime minister said. Families of shooting victims joined him at a press conference in Ottawa.
Canada already has plans to ban 1,500 types of military-style firearms and offer a mandatory buyback program that will begin at the end of the year. Trudeau said if someone really wants to keep their assault weapon, it will be made completely inoperable.
Canada already expanded background checks.
Trudeau has long had plans to enact tougher gun laws but the introduction of the new measure comes after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y., this month.
“Other than using firearms for sport shooting and hunting, there is no reason anyone in Canada should need guns in their everyday lives,” Trudeau said. “We need less gun violence.
“We cannot let the gun debate became so polarized that nothing gets done. We cannot let that happen in our country. This is about freedom. People should be free to go to the supermarket, their school or their place of worship without fear.”
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino called the legislation the most significant step Canada has taken in a generation.
“Countries that do a good job of controlling guns do a good job of controlling gun violence,” Mendicino said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Bill Blair, minister of emergency preparedness, said Canada is very different from the United States.
“In Canada, gun ownership is a privilege, not a right,” Blair said. “This is a principal that differentiates ourselves from many other countries in the world, notably our colleagues and friends to the south.”
Canada has had far fewer mass shootings than the U.S. in part because of a lack of easy access to guns, though the U.S. population also is far larger than Canada’s.
The Reuters news agency notes that Canada’s rate of homicides involving firearms is 0.5 per 100,000 people, compared with the rate of 4.12 in the U.S., according to a 2021 analysis by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
“Canada can teach us a lot,” tweeted Bruce Heyman, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada under the Obama administration.
Blair pointed out that guns are often smuggled in illegally from the U.S., which he noted has one of the largest small arms arsenals in the world.
The government plans to fight gun smuggling and trafficking by increasing criminal penalties, providing more tools to investigate firearms crimes and strengthening border measures. Trudeau said increased funding already helped border officials double the number of smuggled guns confiscated at the U.S. border.
The government said the bill would also allow for the removal of gun licenses from people involved in acts of domestic violence or criminal harassment, such as stalking.
The bill would create a new “red flag” law allowing courts to require that people considered a danger to themselves or others surrender their firearms to police. The government said the measure would guard the safety of those applying through the process, often women in danger of domestic abuse, by protecting their identities.
The government said it will require rifle magazines to be permanently altered so they can never hold more than five rounds and will ban the sale and transfer of large-capacity magazines under the Criminal Code.
In addition, the legislation would prohibit some toys that look like actual guns, such as airsoft rifles, Reuters says, adding that Justice Minister David Lametti told reporters that, “Because they look the same as real firearms, police need to treat them as if they are real. This has led to tragic consequences.”
Trudeau said his government recognizes the vast majority of Canadians who own guns are responsible but the level of gun violence is unacceptable. Mendicino said they are aware the announcement could lead to a rush to buy guns before the law is enacted and urged Parliament to pass it as soon as possible.
The new measures are assured of passing in Canada’s Parliament as the ruling Liberals and leftist opposition New Democrats have enough votes.
Pierre Poilievre, who is running to be leader of the Conservative party, said law-abiding gun owners should be respected and dangerous criminals should be jailed.
The head of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, Rod Giltaca, called the proposed handgun freeze “absurd,” according to Reuters.
He said authorities aren’t using tools they already had to take on gun violence, such as contacting people listed as references on gun license applications.
- Justin Trudeau