Canada plans to ban the sale of handguns and the possession of assault weapons

OTTAWA — Most owners of what Canada calls “military-style assault weapons” would be required to surrender their firearms to a government...


OTTAWA — Most owners of what Canada calls “military-style assault weapons” would be required to surrender their firearms to a government buy-back program under a law introduced Monday that would tighten control already strict gun control in the country.

The Canadian government has also announced new regulations that will prohibit the sale, purchase, import or transfer of handguns. “We are capping the number of handguns in this country,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.

The ban on the sale of handguns and the assault weapons bill are the latest in a series of measures that Mr. Trudeau has taken to restrict firearms since 22 people were killed in rural Nova Scotia by a gunman in 2020, in the deadliest rampage in the country’s history. The legislation, which could apply to tens of thousands of firearms, is expected to be passed.

“As a government, as a society, we have a responsibility to act to prevent further tragedies,” Trudeau told reporters on Monday. He also said: “We only have to look south of the border to know that if we don’t act, firmly and quickly, it gets worse and worse and harder and harder to counter.”

The takeover proposal comes as another mass shooting in the United States has reignited an often heated debate about gun violence. Last week a the shooter used a military style rifle to kill 19 children and two teachers in the town of Uvalde, Texas. Just 10 days earlier, an armed teenager fascinated by a white supremacist ideology opened fire in a supermarket in Buffalo, NYkilling 10 people and injuring three others, almost all black.

After 20 children and six adults were massacred in 2012 in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been many calls in the United States for tighter controls on power guns, but many Republicans aligned with the gun lobby have even refused to allow a vote on any proposed legislation. US lawmakers failed to restore restrictions on military-style semi-automatic weapons which expired in 2004.

Mr. Trudeau’s program echoes a Semi-automatic weapons interdiction and buy-back program launched by New Zealand in 2019, after a lone gunman stormed two mosques, killing 51 people and injuring dozens more in Christchurch. After a 1996 mass shooting in which a gunman killed 35 people in the town of Port Arthur, Australia, the government collected more than 650,000 semi-automatic rifles and numerous shotguns after they were banned in under new legislation.

Marco Mendicino, Canada’s public safety minister, said buyouts should begin by the end of the year.

The Small Arms Survey, a non-profit organization based in Switzerland, estimated in 2017 that there were 12.7 million legal and illegal firearms in civilian hands in Canada, or 34.7 firearms per 100 people. In the United States, he estimates that there were over 300 million firearms in circulation, or 120.5 firearms for every 100 people.

Shortly after the murderous rampage of 2020 in Nova Scotia, Mr. Trudeau used a Cabinet order to announce that he ban more than 1,500 rifle models, including the AR-15, a popular military-style semi-automatic rifle. But ultimately it allowed owners to keep their rifles, if they had a license — but could no longer use, trade, or sell them except, with permission, to buyers outside of Canada.

The government followed this in 2021 with a large set of proposed changes to gun laws. The bill, which expired before being passed by parliament, disappointed groups calling for stricter gun control by making participation in the buy-back program voluntary.

Automatic weapons have long been banned from civilian use in Canada, and magazines for semi-automatic weapons are restricted: no weapon can fire more than five rounds without reloading.

The legislation introduced Monday fulfills a promise made by Trudeau last year to require owners of military-style rifles to turn them in for destruction. Mr. Trudeau’s proposal will allow some exemptions, but these weapons must be modified by the government to make them permanently unusable.

There is, however, no legal definition of a “military type assault weapon”. Trudeau said the government would seek to come up with one that could not be easily circumvented by gunmakers.

Until then, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will continue to assess weapons model by model to see if they belong on the ever-expanding prohibited list introduced by Mr Trudeau in 2020.

Most rifles and shotguns in Canada, with the exception of automatic weapons and handguns, have been relatively unregulated. The previous Conservative government shut down a gun registry that was created after a man killed 14 young women and injured 13 others in 1989 in Polytechnic university engineering school in Montreal.

The registry database was plagued with technical problems and was deeply unpopular in rural areas. Mr. Trudeau ignored calls from gun control groups to renew it.

Compared to shotguns, there are relatively few legal handguns in Canada and their use has long been heavily restricted. Besides members of the police, border agencies, the military, and some private security personnel, handgun users may only fire their guns at ranges, and guns must otherwise be stored in locked containers at their homes.

Trudeau’s previous legislative attempt would have allowed provinces to ban all handguns within their borders, an idea that quickly raised concerns among gun control groups about the development of a disparate system nationwide. On Monday, he acknowledged those criticisms.

“We decided to take a new path, something that would tackle this issue at a national level,” he said.

Although Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party does not have a majority of votes in the House of Commons, the leftist New Democratic Party has long called for stricter gun control and is expected to support the new measure, allowing it to overcome any potential opposition from the Conservatives.

Handguns account for almost 60% of gun crime in Canada, according to a report released last week by Statistics Canada, the census agency. Gun violence death rates are much lower in Canada than in the United States.

The agency is pushing for more comprehensive gun data collection. While police have long maintained that most illegal firearms, particularly handguns, are smuggled from the United States, not much is known about the origins of firearms used in crimes.

The shooter in Nova Scotia used two weapons that are now banned; both were smuggled from the United States.

Other measures contained in the sweeping bill, which amends several pieces of legislation, include criminalizing the modification of a gun to increase its capacity; increase penalties for smuggling firearms; and giving police the power to seize firearms from people who a judge has determined pose a risk of harming themselves or others.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Canada plans to ban the sale of handguns and the possession of assault weapons
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