Canada tightens gun laws amid wave of US mass shootings

[In Case You Missed It: What Canada Doesn’t Know About Its Guns ] Given the sweeping firearms measures announced this week, let’s stay ...


[In Case You Missed It: What Canada Doesn’t Know About Its Guns]

Given the sweeping firearms measures announced this week, let’s stay on topic.

Two of the government’s plans dominated the news. First, Canada took immediate action to freeze the sale, donation, trade and import of handguns. It’s not a ban, but it does mean the number of handguns legally owned by Canadians outside of the military and police won’t increase from the roughly 900,000 currently held.

The other thing that caught the eye was the government’s decision to follow through on its earlier ban on military-style assault rifles with a mandatory buyback program.

The bill, however, goes beyond freezing and banning. It would strip people of their firearms license if they had been involved in domestic violence or stalking, increase penalties for firearms offenses and compel people who a judge deemed a threat to them themselves or others to surrender their weapons to the police.

The announcement, made late Monday, follows several recent mass shootings in the United States, in particular the devastating attack on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last week. Since Friday, some 20 mass shootings have taken place in nine days in this country, a rate of more than two a day.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cited the gruesome killings when he announced the proposals. But given the complexity of getting any government bill through parliament, it’s unlikely the current proposal was crafted after the Uvalde shooting.

One point somewhat lost in the reshuffle is that the handgun freeze will not need parliamentary approval. It has already been brought into effect by a relatively brief series of amendments to the Firearms Act.

(My colleague Max Fisher wrote an explainer contrasting with how the Parliament of Canada acted quickly on gun control while the United States Congress stalled on the issue for a decade.)

The government plans to have official guidance for gun owners, gun shops and the small number of people exempt from the new rules (including Olympic and Paralympic athletes) in the coming weeks. Given the delay in obtaining a firearms license, the government also hopes to prevent people who do not already have a license from stocking up on weapons at the last minute before the entry into force. new guidelines.

At least one aspect of gun laws doesn’t change: rules that essentially limit the use of handguns to targeted practice at an approved shooting range. At home, handgun owners should continue to keep their guns locked up.

And it’s still illegal to use a handgun against another person under any circumstances. The farmer who shot and killed Colten Boushiea 22-year-old Cree from Saskatchewan, was acquitted of murder and manslaughter in 2018, but was still fined C$3,900 and given a firearms prohibition from 10 years for improper storage of firearms.

This week’s proposed legislation and change to handgun rules has been welcomed by several gun control groups.

“There is no ‘right to own’ guns in this country,” Wendy Cukier, president of the Coalition for Gun Control, said in a statement. “Legal handguns are a significant source of handguns used in crime and are the weapons most often used in mass shootings.”

But Raquel Dancho, the Conservative MP who speaks for the party on public safety issues, criticized the bill on Twitter, saying it does not treat what she considers “the root cause of gun violence in our cities: illegal weapons smuggled into Canada by criminal gangs”. (A little over a year ago, the Canada Border Services Agency announced the creation of a joint task force with its American counterpart to stem the cross-border flow of weapons.)

Many people welcomed the changes, but urged the government to go even further. John Tory, the mayor of Toronto, has called for a national handgun ban.

There is no way of knowing if the handgun freeze and assault weapons buyback program will affect gun crimes and gun-related suicides. A review of international firearms law, prepared by the Research Division of the Department of Public Safety in 2020 and published under access to information laws, found “little or no quantitative evidence effectiveness of gun buy-back programs in reducing gun violence”.

And a study published last November by Dr. Caillin Langmann of McMaster University School of Medicine in Hamilton, Ont., found that “although there may be an association between legislation and a reduction in the rate of firearm suicideoverall suicide rates remained unchanged due to substitution by other methods. »

Many people calling for stricter gun control have also noted that women are disproportionately affected by gun crime.

“The presence of firearms is our first indicator that lethal intimate partner violence is a high risk,” Amanda Dale, a family law attorney in Brampton, Ont., said in a statement responding to the draft. gun reform law. “For those who feel today that their privileges have been reduced, I remind them that this is not the same as being hunted down, threatened and killed by the person who is supposed to love you.”


  • Patricia Leigh Brown traveled to Kinngait on Baffin Island in Nunavut to meet with Kinngait studio artists. “That a place of great challenges, from poverty to suicide, has become a ‘Florence of the North’ is a proud fact of life here,” she wrote. “Artists represent about a quarter of the community and learn largely by observation, mentored by elders and family members.” Brendan George Ko has contributed outstanding photography to the artist community.

  • Katie Yu, a 16-year-old attending Inuksuk High School in Nunavut, is one of 10 winners of a student profile competition organized by The New York Times Learning Network. In her article, she tells the story of Heather Shilton, the director of the Nunavut Nukkiksautiit Corporation, Nunavut’s first all-Inuit renewable energy developer.

  • Some Americans traveling internationally are bypassing the US requirement for negative Covid test results to board flights first traveling to Canada then back home at a level crossing.

  • Two brands of organic strawberries could be to blame an outbreak of hepatitis A in Canada and the United States.

  • Christopher Clarey, The Times tennis expert, examined the style of play of Leylah Fernandez, Montreal’s teenage tennis star, as she qualified for the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros. (Due to injury, however, she didn’t make it past that point.)

  • The Frugal Traveler section presents several locations in Canada in a list of destinations for budget-conscious travelers interested in wine, culture, food and the outdoors.


Ian Austen is from Windsor, Ontario and was educated in Toronto. He lives in Ottawa and has reported on Canada for the New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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