Canadian government proposes tougher gun laws

Bill seeks to limit number of handguns to those already in Canada and strip firearms licenses from violent people

OTTAWA — A national freeze on the importation, purchase, sale or transfer of handguns is a central part of gun control legislation tabled Monday by the federal Liberals.

The measure does not outright ban handguns, allowing current owners to continue to own and use them, but aims to limit the number already in Canada.

“This is a concrete, real national measure that will go a long way to keeping Canadians safe,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa.

The bill would also allow for the automatic withdrawal of firearms licenses from people who commit domestic violence or engage in stalking, such as stalking.

The Liberals plan to tackle gun smuggling and trafficking by increasing criminal penalties, providing more tools to investigate gun crimes and strengthening border measures.

The bill would create a new “red flag” law allowing courts to order people deemed a danger to themselves or others to turn in their firearms to police.

The government says the measure would protect the safety of those applying throughout the process, often women at risk of domestic violence, by protecting their identity.

The Liberals also say they will require long-gun magazines to be permanently modified so they can never hold more than five rounds, as well as ban the sale and transfer of high-capacity magazines under of the Criminal Code.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said in early March that the government planned to pass “very proactive” firearms legislation shortly after a previous bill expired with the triggering of the general elections last summer.

However, the new bill comes amid intense debate over gun safety on both sides of the Canada-US border following an elementary school shooting that killed 19 children and two adults. in Uvalde, Texas last week. Earlier this month, 10 black people were gunned down in a supermarket in Buffalo, NY.

Trudeau said Monday that people should feel free to go to a store, a birthday park or a picnic without worrying about gun violence, but sadly the problem has gotten worse in Canada over the years. year. “We only have to look south of the border to know that if we don’t act firmly and quickly, it gets worse and harder to deal with.

Mendicino has already tabled regulatory amendments in parliament to ensure the national handgun freeze can be implemented quickly, the government announced Monday.

“These regulations will help stop the growth of personal handguns in Canada and are expected to come into effect in the fall of 2022.”

The number of handguns registered in Canada increased by 71% between 2010 and 2020, reaching about 1.1 million, according to federal statistics. Handguns were the most serious weapon present in the majority of firearm-related violent crimes between 2009 and 2020.

Under the government’s plan, chief firearms officers would be barred from approving the transfer of a handgun to individuals. Companies could continue to sell to other businesses, such as film companies and museums, as well as exempt individuals.

Exempt persons would include those transporting valuables and marksmen who compete or train in handgun events recognized by the international Olympic or Paralympic committees.

The government had previously pledged to work with provinces and territories that wanted to ban handguns, an approach that has drawn criticism from some gun control advocates as a model of an ineffective patchwork of regulations across Canada.

Toronto Mayor John Tory hailed the proposed handgun freeze as a “step in the right direction.”

“Gun violence is a national problem requiring national solutions,” he said. “Toronto City Council has made it clear that it supports a national handgun ban.”

But Teri Bryant, Alberta’s firearms chief, told a Monday night news conference that it’s already very hard to get a handgun in Canada, and money would be better spent on hiring staff at the offices of chiefs of firearms to provide quick and thorough vetting of applicants, or on border guards.

“I saw this set of measures today as a lot of highly symbolic signals of virtue, and very thin on the things that are actually going to have an impact,” Brant said, noting that the proposed changes will create an additional burden. for existing people. Personal.

“It’s the people who make the difference.”

The bill was generally applauded by groups advocating tougher controls, including PolySeSouvient, the Coalition for Gun Control and Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns.

NDP Public Safety Critic Alistair MacGregor said his party wants to believe the announcement is an urgent priority and not just another political stunt.

“If the Liberals are finally serious this time, New Democrats are here to make it happen,” he said in a statement. “We are committed to fighting gun violence and making our communities safer.”

The bill introduced Monday builds on previous federal measures.

Two years ago, the government announced a ban on more than 1,500 models and variants of what it considers assault firearms. The Liberals plan to introduce a mandatory buy-back program to provide compensation to affected homeowners and businesses.

The government promised on Monday to ensure that such firearms are automatically banned when they enter the market in the future. “We will continue to work to ensure that all new weapons that meet the definition of an assault weapon are captured.”

The buy-back plan has been welcomed by gun control advocates, but Tory MPs and others opposed to the idea have suggested it targets legitimate gun owners rather than preventing illegal firearms from falling into the wrong hands.

Several women’s groups have recently implored the government to scrap the “red flag” provision, a version of which was included in the bill that failed to pass last year.

The groups said it was shifting responsibility for gun law enforcement from authorities to others, including possible targets of violence.

“Citizens or other organisations, let alone potential victims, should not be expected to put themselves at risk by going to court to request action which should be immediate and under the direct responsibility of the the police,” their letter reads.

The government seems to have acknowledged the concern by allowing the identity of vulnerable people to be protected during the legal process.

Samantha Price, who was shot in the hip aged 17 in a 2018 shooting along Danforth Avenue in Toronto, was among those who attended the Ottawa news conference Monday.

Price said she was “very happy” with the announcement, adding that it would “help us feel safer”.

“You want to feel safe in your own community.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 30, 2022.

— With files from Marie Woolf