May 31, 2022 - World

Canada poised to pass sweeping gun restrictions in wake of Uvalde and Buffalo

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking in Ottawa on May 30.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking in Ottawa on May 30. Photo: David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Canada is poised to expand the country's gun laws prompted by two separate mass shootings in the U.S. this month that left 29 people dead and at least 20 others injured.

Driving the news: Though Canada has a strong hunting culture and rifles used for hunting are not heavily regulated, handguns are heavily restricted. The new legislation would ban the sale or importation of handguns and force owners of "military-style rifles" to turn in their weapons through a buyback program.

  • The legislation is expected to pass, with the left-leaning New Democratic Party and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party overcoming any potential opposition from the Conservative Party, according to the New York Times.

What they're saying: "We need only look south of the border to know that if we do not take action firmly and rapidly it gets worse and worse and gets more difficult to counter," Trudeau told reporters Monday.

"In Canada, gun ownership is a privilege, not a right," Bill Blair, minister of emergency preparedness, told NPR. "This is a principle that differentiates ourselves from many other countries in the world, notably our colleagues and friends to the south. In Canada, guns are only intended to be used for hunting and sport purposes."

By the numbers: The Canadian government said Monday that the number of registered handguns in Canada increased 71% between 2010 and 2020, reaching around 1.1 million.

  • Handguns were used in 59% of firearm-related violent crimes between 2009 and 2020, while firearms in general were used in 600 intimate partner violence incidents in 2018 alone, the government said.
  • More than 2 million Canadians hold firearm licenses.
  • Guns in the U.S. still vastly outnumber those in Canada. According to the Small Arms Survey, there are 34.7 firearms per 100 Canadians vs. 120 firearms per 100 Americans in the U.S.

The big picture: The Constitution of Canada does not guarantee a right to bear arms like the U.S. Constitution and already has many firearm restrictions.

  • Civilians are not allowed to own automatic weapons and no magazine for semi-automatic weapons can shoot more than five rounds, per the Times. Rifle purchases must obtain a certificate to buy the weapon and businesses must keep copies on hand.
  • The country banned over 1,500 models and variants of "assault-style firearms" after a mass shooting in Nova Scotia in 2020 left 22 killed and at least three injured but owners were still allowed to keep them. The Nova Scotia shooter used weapons smuggled in from the U.S.
  • In the legislation introduced Monday, owners of such guns will be required to sell them back to the government in a buyback program that has yet to be revealed.
  • It would also increase criminal penalties for trafficking guns, strip firearm licenses from people who have committed acts of domestic violence or criminal harassment and implement a new red flag gun law.
  • The handgun freeze would allow exceptions for security guards and professional sport shooters.
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