Justin Trudeau Proposes a Freeze on Handgun Ownership in Canada

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In the wake of the devastating mass shooting in Texas last week, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau announced yesterday that he would be introducing a proposal to freeze the sale and transfer of handguns across Canada. Trudeau emphasized that, following the killing of 21 people at Robb Elementary School in the small Texan city of Uvalde, the time to introduce tougher gun-control laws in Canada—which saw the deadliest gun attack within its own history in 2020 in Nova Scotia—is now. 

“I’ve seen all too well the tragic cost that gun violence has in our communities across the country,” Trudeau said in a statement. “Today, we’re proposing some of the strongest measures in Canadian history to keep guns out of our communities and build a safer future for everyone.” Canada’s minister of public safety, Marco Mendicino, described the move as the “most significant action on gun violence in a generation.”

While the law would not ban owning handguns outright, it would make it illegal to purchase them, as well as to transfer, import, or trade them. It would also introduce a so-called red-flag law that would allow courts to deny individuals marked as a threat the right to own firearms, as well as allow the government to remove firearms licenses from people with histories of domestic violence or harassment. Finally, it would require certain rifle magazines to be permanently altered so that they cannot hold more than five rounds, with the transfer and sale of large-capacity magazines to be frozen also.

Handgun laws in Canada are already stricter than in the U.S., in part due to the fact that the right to carry arms is not enshrined in its constitution. Still, while the country’s rates of gun homicide are less than one-fifth of those in the U.S., the number of killings has been steadily rising over the past few years, leading many to urge Trudeau to take action even before last week’s shooting in Texas.

While the 2020 Nova Scotia killings, which saw 23 people dead, led Trudeau to promise a ban on “assault-style weapons” that would also bring about a buyback program offering gun owners “fair compensation”—a policy partly inspired by one introduced by Jacinda Arden’s government in New Zealand after the 2019 Christchurch massacre—the events in Texas seem to have propelled him to take more decisive action. 



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