Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Official Canadian government photo)

While the U.S. Sen­ate once more strives to come up with a watered down gun safe­ty bill, the gov­ern­ment of Cana­da is prepar­ing deci­sive action to cap gun cul­ture and get mil­i­tary-style assault weapons out of Cana­di­ans’ hands.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, act­ing days after mul­ti­ple high pro­file mass shoot­ings in “the States,” on Mon­day sent to the House of Com­mons leg­is­la­tion that will impose a nation­al freeze on the sale, pur­chase, impor­ta­tion and trans­fer of hand­guns. Trudeau’s gov­ern­ment is also propos­ing to buy back thou­sands of already banned assault weapons such as AR-15s by the end of the year.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Cana­di­an Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau (Offi­cial Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment photo)

The leg­is­la­tion includes a “red flag” pro­vi­sion, with peo­ple deemed a threat to them­selves and oth­ers required to sur­ren­der their weapons.

Like­wise, firearms licens­es would be tak­en away from those involved in domes­tic vio­lence or crim­i­nal harass­ment. Oth­er­wise, Cana­di­ans who already own hand­guns would be per­mit­ted to keep them.

In Trudeau’s words: “This is con­crete and a real nation­al mea­sure that will go a long ways toward keep­ing Cana­di­ans safe… We need only look south of the bor­der to know that is we do not take action firm­ly and rapid­ly it gets worse and worse and gets more dif­fi­cult to counter.”

The gov­ern­ing Lib­er­al Par­ty holds 160 seats in Canada’s 338-mem­ber par­lia­ment but is sup­port­ed by 26 MPs from the left-lean­ing New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

The com­bi­na­tion of exec­u­tive and leg­isla­tive branch­es of gov­ern­ment allows for quick and deci­sive action. In words of the late British Colum­bia Pre­mier Dave Bar­rett, “When the Queen calls you, she gives you the whole bag.”

Objec­tions will come from the right. Of the pro­posed freeze, Saskatchewan Pre­mier Scott Moe said: “It is extreme­ly prob­lem­at­ic because it absolute­ly appears to be going after those that own firearms but do so legal­ly and are fol­low­ing all the rules and reg­u­la­tions that are in place.”

The Prime Minister’s announce­ment, made ear­ly this week, has spiked hand­gun sales in British Columbia’s low­er main­land. Scott Car­pen­ter of Inter­na­tion­al Shoot­ing Sup­plies in Sur­rey report­ed mak­ing a month’s worth of sales in a day. “The sheer vol­ume – it’s over­whelm­ing,” he told Glob­al TV News.

Cana­da has a far low­er rate of gun deaths than the Unit­ed States: Its cit­i­zens pos­sess thou­sands of semi-auto­mat­ic assault weapons com­pared to mil­lions in the hands of Amer­i­cans. But the country’s mur­der rate has increased in recent years, notably with high-pro­file gang­land shoot­ings in Que­bec and British Columbia.

The coun­try also expe­ri­enced the mass mur­der of 22 per­sons in Por­tapique, Nova Sco­tia, in April of 2020.

An ille­gal­ly obtained AR-15, the pre­ferred weapon for mass shoot­ings south of the bor­der, was used in the killings before RCMP offi­cers shot the killer.

The U.S. Sen­ate has gone more than nine years since the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School mas­sacre with­out tak­ing sig­nif­i­cant action on firearms safe­ty. The Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment act­ed less than ten days after the slaugh­ter at Por­tapique. On May 1, 2020, by Cab­i­net order, the Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment banned 1,500 mod­els of assault rifles. “As of today, the mar­ket for assault weapons in Cana­da ix closed,” said Pub­lic Safe­ty Min­is­ter Bill Blair, a for­mer Toron­to police chief.

Trudeau made a salient point at the time: “These weapons were designed for one pur­pose and one pur­pose only, to ill the largest num­ber of peo­ple in the short­est peri­od of time. There is no use and no place for such weapons in Cana­da… You don’t need an AR-15 to bring down a deer.”

Cana­di­ans have reg­is­tered an aver­age of 55,000 new hand­guns each year.

Under exist­ing law, they are required to keep firearms locked and unloaded, and under­go back­ground checks before purchase.

The lat­est bill would require rifle mag­a­zines to be recon­fig­ured so they can hold no more than five rounds at a time.

The “Great White North” has a dif­fer­ent phi­los­o­phy of firearms ownership.

“In Cana­da, gun own­er­ship is a priv­i­lege, not a right,” said Blair.

“This is a prin­ci­ple that dif­fer­en­ti­ates our­selves from many oth­er coun­tries in the world, notably our col­leagues and friends to the South.”

So-called open car­ry laws, passed by Repub­li­can-run leg­is­la­tures, are for­eign to Cana­di­ans. “Oth­er than using firearms for sport shoot­ing and hunt­ing, there is no rea­son any­one in Cana­da should need guns in their every­day lives,” Trudeau argued in mak­ing the case for a hand­gun freeze.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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