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Canada's government moves to make selling or importing handguns illegal

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new gun control legislation in Ottawa, Ontario, on Monday.
Patrick Doyle
/
The Canadian Press via AP
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new gun control legislation in Ottawa, Ontario, on Monday.

Updated May 30, 2022 at 8:22 PM ET

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government introduced legislation Monday that would put a freeze on importing, buying or selling handguns.

"We are capping the number of handguns in this country," Trudeau said.

The regulations to halt the growth of personally owned handguns is expected to be enacted this fall.

"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 program that will begin at the end of the year. It already expanded background checks.

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, N.Y., this month.

Bill Blair, minister of emergency preparedness, said Canada is very different from the United States.

"In Canada, gun ownership is a privilege not a right," Blair said. "This is a principal 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 U.S. in part because of a lack of easy access to guns, though the U.S. population also is far larger than Canada's.

Blair noted guns are often smuggled in illegally from the U.S., which he noted has one of the largest small arms arsenals in the world.

The 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 U.S. border.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new gun control legislation in Ottawa, Ontario on Monday.
Patrick Doyle / The Canadian Press via AP
/
The Canadian Press via AP
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new gun control legislation in Ottawa, Ontario on Monday.

The government also said the bill would also allow for the removal of gun licenses 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.

The government said it will require rifle 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 under the Criminal Code.

"Canada can teach us a lot," tweeted Bruce Heyman, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada under the Obama administration.

Trudeau said his government recognizes the vast majority of Canadians who own guns are responsible but the level of gun violence is unacceptable. "This is a concrete and real national measure to long way toward keeping Canadians safe," Trudeau said.

The new measures are assured of passing 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.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press