Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced new legislation that his government says will usher in “some of the strongest gun control measures” in decades, including a “freeze” on the buying and selling of handguns in the country.
In a news conference in Ottawa on Monday evening, Trudeau invoked a string of mass shootings in Canada over the past decades, as well as recent attacks in the United States, as part of his government’s impetus to introduce Bill C-21.
“Canadians all agree that we need less gun violence. We cannot let the guns debate become so polarised that nothing gets done. We cannot let that happen in our country,” Trudeau told reporters.
“Gun violence is a complex problem, but at the end of the day, the math is really quite simple. The fewer the guns in our communities, the safer everyone will be.”
Canada has stricter gun ownership restrictions than the US, but gun control advocates in recent years have called for tougher measures amid a string of mass shootings, including a 2017 assault on a Quebec mosque that killed six worshippers and a deadly shooting in Toronto in 2018.
That ban included the AR-15, which was used by a gunman to kill 26 adults and children in the Sandy Hook massacre in the US in 2012, and the Ruger Mini-14 rifle, which a gunman used to kill 14 women at a Montreal engineering school in 1989.
During Monday’s news conference, Canada’s Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino also said the government plans to launch a mandatory buy-back programme for those “assault-style” weapons that were previously banned.
“Today our government introduced Canada’s most significant action on gun violence in a generation,” said Mendicino, who told reporters that approximately 1 million handguns are believed to be in circulation in Canada.
“Combined with the measures we’ve already put in place, this marks the next significant step in our fight to eliminate gun violence,” he said.
In a statement offering more details on Bill C-21, the government said the legislation would implement “a national freeze on handguns to prevent individuals from bringing newly acquired handguns into Canada and from buying, selling, and transferring” them in the country.
It said the public safety minister has already introduced regulatory amendments to “help stop the growth of personally owned handguns in Canada”, and the measures are expected to come into force in the next few months.
The legislation will allow Canada to revoke firearms licenses from individuals involved in acts of domestic violence and harassment, including stalking, Ottawa also said, while a new “red flag” law would allow Canadian courts to require individuals deemed dangerous to surrender their firearms.
The government will also require long-gun magazines to be permanently altered so they can never hold more than five rounds, and will ban the sale and transfer of large-capacity magazines.