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.
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.