Federal Liberals have introduced new gun control laws that would freeze the import, sale and transfer of handguns, but not go as far as banning them completely.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the new legislation, Bill C-21, at a news conference Monday. The measures would allow existing owners to keep their guns.
Asked why the government has not proposed a ban, Trudeau said the bill will provide “significant tools” to reduce the number of handguns in communities and protect people from gun violence. “This is a concrete and genuine national measure that will make a major contribution to the security of Canadians,” he said.
Gun control proponents say the new legislation is just a first step towards reducing gun-related violence in Canada.
Bill C-21 would also allow for the automatic withdrawal of firearms licenses from people who have committed domestic violence or have engaged in criminal harassment, such as stalking. And it would create a new “red flag” law that would allow courts to require people who pose a danger to themselves or others to surrender their firearms to the police.
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Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino told the news conference that the government is also committed to introducing a mandatory assault weapons buyback program. He said the details would be released after consultation with the industry.
the liberals pledged to introduce a mandatory buyback program during the 2021 election campaign.
The government pledged Monday to ensure that such firearms are automatically banned when they hit the market in the future. “We will continue to work to ensure that new weapons that meet the definition of assault weapons are captured,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a press release.
The buyback plan has been praised by gun control proponents, but Conservative 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.
The government has been promising action against firearms for some time. Mendicino said in March the government would introduce “very proactive” firearms legislation.
Two years ago, the government announced a ban on more than 1,500 models and variants of what it considers assault-style firearms. And during the 2019 election campaign, the Liberals promised a buy-back program for “all military-style assault rifles legally purchased in Canada.”
But in 2021, the government introduced an earlier draft arms control bill, also titled C-21, that would have instituted a voluntary — not mandatory — assault weapons buyback program.
The bill would also have allowed municipalities to ban handguns and would have constituted a criminal offense for increasing the size of weapons magazines beyond legal limits. The legislation died on the order letter when the federal election was held last August.
At Monday’s press conference, Mr. Mendicino said the government has introduced changes to the firearms law to bring the small arms ban into effect as soon as possible. A statement issued announcing the new bill said the regulations will come into effect in the fall of 2022. Both the minister and prime minister said they hoped opposition parties would help speed up the adoption of the legislation.
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The new bill comes at a time of heightened focus on gun violence, following mass shootings this month in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, NY. The Liberals warned in their 2021 election platform that “American-style gun violence is on the rise” in Canada.
On Friday, Statistics Canada reported that violent crime involving firearms had increased between 2013 and 2019, after several years of declines. In 2020, there were 29 victims of gun-related violent crime for every 100,000 people in Canada, up from 19 victims in 2013, according to police reports.
Nathalie Prevost, a spokesperson for PolySeSouvient, a gun control advocate, said after Monday’s press conference that the small arms freeze is a good first step.
“That’s a big win for those who believe in gun control in Canada. It’s a federal freeze, not just any freeze,” she said, “that’s very important. We don’t need to diminish the importance of that decision.” Ms. Prevost was shot four times in 1989 when a gunman stormed the École Polytechnique in Montreal, killing 14 women.
Claire Price, whose teenage daughter Samantha was one of 13 people shot and injured in 2018 during a gunman’s frenzy in the Danforth area of Toronto, said she was surprised by the gun measure. “I didn’t expect an announcement about a gun sale being stopped,” she said. “I had to hear these words now.”
“There’s always more to do,” she added. “This is definitely just one piece of a big puzzle.”
Blake Brown, a professor at Saint Mary’s University and the author of a book on the history of weapons in Canada, said it will likely take months, if not years, to implement this series of changes if the legislation is passed. After the federal firearms law of 1995 was royally passed, he noted, it took years for the gun licensing regime it ushered in to be fully enacted.
Prof. dr. Brown pointed out that freezing the sale of handguns is a much cheaper approach than banning them and buying back the estimated million or so registered to people across the country.
He added that a multi-pronged approach is needed to resolve gun violence, including intercepting more illegal weapons flowing north from the US.
Police forces across the country provide a patchwork of information about weapons used in violent crimes. That data suggests the majority of firearms are not legally purchased or stolen from licensed Canadian gun owners, but are smuggled in from the US
“You can’t fix this: You can’t snap your fingers and spend some money and make sure guns never cross the border,” said Prof. Brown.
Mendicino told reporters Monday that 55,000 new pistols are registered annually.
That’s roughly how many new guns are likely to be bought in the coming months by enthusiasts suspicious of the impending freeze, according to Rod Giltaca, chief executive officer of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights.
Mr Giltaca said the gun owners at the country’s 1,400 gun clubs are part of a very serious culture that is mistaking Ottawa in its efforts to reduce violence and increase public safety.
AJ Somerset, a hunter and former soldier from Windsor, Ontario, who is also the author of a book on gun culture in North America, said gun control is valuable and works, but the measures proposed by the government don’t necessarily stop the violence. ravage several cities.
Ottawa could better solve the problem of gang violence by providing more funding and services aimed at alleviating urban poverty, Mr Somerset said. He added that the federal government could also legalize some drugs to reduce violence associated with the illegal market.
Federal conservatives had reservations about the legislation.
Raquel Dancho, the party’s public safety critic, said in a statement that gun crime is increasing every year, despite existing restrictions.
Some mayors said yes hoping for more action on pistols.
“Today’s announcement of a national small arms freeze is a big step in the right direction, although it should come with tougher border controls, tougher penalties and investment in anti-violence programs,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a statement.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the proposed new measures would make her city and others across the country safer.
“We hope that the move taken by the Canadian government today will lead to a complete ban on handguns and their removal from our streets and from the hands of young people,” she wrote on Twitter.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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