Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed a ban on the sale or transfer of handguns throughout the country on Monday.
The proposal would be the largest piece of gun-control legislation in the country in decades. While not making currently owned handguns illegal, the bill would cap the amount of legal firearms owned by Canadians.
“It will no longer be possible to buy, sell, transfer, or import handguns anywhere in Canada,” Trudeau said in a press conference.
Trudeau’s proposal comes in the wake of the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y., a city that sits on the U.S. border with Canada. Many liberal leaders in the United States are also calling for stiffer gun-control measures, including restrictions on handguns. Last weekend, President Joe Biden expressed support for restrictions on 9mm handguns, saying “there’s simply no rational basis for it in terms of self-protection, hunting.”
If the bill passes, Canada’s gun politics could once again cast a shadow over its southern neighbor. American gun-control activists could take the dramatic step as further evidence Americans are not doing enough to implement gun restrictions. At the same time, gun-rights advocates could view it as an indication of where American gun-control advocates want to end up.
Canada already put in place a confiscation effort for “assault weapons” in 2020 after a shooter in Nova Scotia killed 23 people. That policy banned 1,500 types of firearms including the AR-15 and similar rifles, prohibiting even their possession. But few Canadians have relinquished their firearms to the government.
Only 160 firearms affected by the ban had been surrendered as of December 9, 2021. Because creating the buyback program Canada is relying on to collect the affected weapons has proven so difficult, the Canadian government extended the amnesty for turning in those firearms to 2023.
A number of the provisions come from a bill that failed to pass before the country’s federal election last year. However, this proposal is expected to gain the support of Trudeau’s Liberal Party as well as the New Democratic Party.
As he made the case for the new law, Trudeau admitted that most of those who would be affected are law-abiding citizens.
“We recognize that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible and follow all necessary laws,” Trudeau told reporters. “We are, however, facing a level of gun violence in our communities that is unacceptable.”
Conservative leader Candice Bergen spoke out against the move and pushed instead for harsher penalties for crimes involving guns. On Tuesday She singled out a bill that would remove minimum sentencing for gun crimes.
“We saw liberals engage in a game of smoke and mirrors,” Bergen said. “On one hand they are banning handguns, on the other hand they are pushing through bill C-5, which tells criminals, ‘Don’t worry: If you’re convicted of a gun crime, you just hang out at home for your sentence.'”
In addition to the handgun ban, the proposed legislation would limit long-gun magazines to five rounds, increase criminal penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking, and implement a red-flag law that would permit courts to seize firearms from those determined to be a danger to themselves or others. It would also provide protections to those making the reports, including protecting their identity, and it would invest $6.6 million in Canadian dollars ($5.1 million USD) towards raising awareness of the law.
According to Statistics Canada, “firearm-related violent crime represents a small proportion of police-reported violent crime” in Canada. Although, the rate has increased steadily since 2014.