Canada plans complete freeze on handgun ownership

The Canadian government has introduced legislation that would put a freeze on importing, buying or selling handguns.

“We are capping the number of handguns in this country,” said the prime minister, Justin Trudeau. The regulations to halt the growth of personally owned handguns is expected to be enacted this autumn.

“It will be illegal to buy, sell, transfer or import handguns anywhere in Canada,” the prime minister said.

Canada already has plans to ban 1,500 types of military-style firearms and offer a mandatory buyback programme that will begin at the end of the year.

Trudeau said if someone really wanted to keep their assault weapon it would be made completely inoperable.

Canada had already expanded background checks ahead of this total ban. Trudeau has long had plans to enact tougher gun laws but the introduction of the new measure comes after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, NY, this month.

Bill Blair, minister of emergency preparedness, said Canada was “very different from the United States”. “In Canada, gun ownership is a privilege, not a right,” he said. “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.”

Canada has had far fewer mass shootings than the US in part because of a lack of easy access to guns, though the US population also is far larger than Canada’s.

Blair said guns were often smuggled in illegally from the US, which he noted had one of the largest small arms arsenals in the world.

The Canadian government plans to fight gun smuggling and trafficking by increasing criminal penalties, providing more tools to investigate firearms crimes and strengthening border measures.

Trudeau said increased funding already helped border officials double the amount of smuggled guns confiscated at the US border. His government also said the bill would allow for the removal of gun licences from people involved in acts of domestic violence or criminal harassment such as stalking.

The bill would create a new “red flag” law allowing courts to require that people considered a danger to themselves or others surrender their firearms to police. The government said the measure would guard the safety of those applying through the process – often women in danger of domestic abuse – by protecting their identities.

Rifle magazines would be permanently altered so they can never hold more than five rounds, and the bill will ban the sale and transfer of large-capacity magazines.

“Canada can teach us a lot,” tweeted Bruce Heyman, a former US ambassador to Canada under the Obama administration.

Trudeau said his government recognised that the vast majority of Canadians who owned guns were responsible, but the level of gun violence was “unacceptable”. “This is a concrete and real national measure toward keeping Canadians safe,” Trudeau said.

The new measures are likely to pass in Canada’s parliament as the ruling Liberals and leftist opposition New Democrats have enough votes.

Pierre Poilievre, who is running to be leader of the Conservative party, said law-abiding gun owners should be respected and dangerous criminals should be jailed.

Trudeau said: “Other than using firearms for sport shooting and hunting, there is no reason anyone in Canada should need guns in their everyday lives.

“We need less gun violence. We cannot let the gun debate became so polarised that nothing gets done. We cannot let that happen in our country. This is about freedom. People should be free to go to the supermarket, their school or their place of worship without fear.”

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