The bill still needs to be passed by the Canadian Parliament

Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a proposed freeze on possession of handguns in Canada on Monday that would effectively ban their importation and sale, following recent mass shootings in the United States.

The bill still needs to be passed by parliament, with the ruling Liberals holding only a minority of seats.

“We are introducing legislation to implement a nationwide freeze on handgun ownership,” Trudeau said at a news conference, joined by dozens of families and friends of gun violence victims.

“This means that it will no longer be possible to buy, sell, transfer or import handguns anywhere in Canada,” he said. “In other words, we are capping the handgun market.”

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Days after Canada’s worst mass shooting killed 23 people in rural Nova Scotia in April 2020, the government banned 1,500 types of military-grade or assault firearms.

But Trudeau acknowledged on Monday that gun violence continues to rise.

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The government statistics agency reported last week that gun-related violent crime accounts for less than three percent of all violent crime in Canada.

But since 2009, the per capita rate of guns being pointed at someone has nearly tripled, while the rate at which a gun was fired with the intent to kill or injure has increased fivefold.

Nearly two-thirds of gun crimes in urban areas involved handguns.

Police often point to smuggling from the United States — which is reeling from recent shootings at a school in Texas and a supermarket in New York state — as the main source of handguns.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino estimated there were about one million handguns in this country, a significant increase from a decade ago.

Trudeau commented: “People should be free to go to the supermarket, their school or their place of worship without fear. People should be free to go to the park or a birthday party without worrying about what might happen from a stray bullet.

“Gun violence is a complex problem,” he said. “But at the end of the day, the math is really, really simple: the fewer guns there are in our communities, the safer everyone will be.”

The bill would also strip anyone involved in domestic violence or harassment of their firearms license, and remove guns from those deemed a risk to themselves or others, as well as strengthen the border security and criminal sanctions for arms trafficking.

It would also ban long gun magazines capable of holding more than five bullets.