“We understand that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible and follow all necessary laws,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “However, we are facing a level of gun violence in our communities that is unacceptable.”
The proposed legislation came after mass shootings in Texas and across the US-Canada border in Buffalo in recent weeks, reviving a long-running debate in the US about whether Congress might take action to reduce gun violence.
Unfortunately, the reality in our country [gun violence] Trudeau said. “We just need to look south of the border to know that if we don’t take action firmly and quickly, it will only get worse and harder to counter.”
Several provisions of the proposed legislation appeared in a gun control bill introduced last year, but that was not passed before a federal election in August. Gun control advocates criticized the buyback program for banned guns, which was voluntary. Liberals have vowed to take tougher gun-control measures if re-elected.
Such measures have wide popular support here, particularly in urban centres. The Liberal Party typically uses guns as a wedge issue during federal election campaigns, making their conservative counterparts supportive of loosening gun control measures to gain an advantage.
Gun control advocates have long called for a national ban on handguns. But some provincial and municipal officials opposed this.
The “freeze” envisioned in the proposed legislation is not a ban because people who already own it can continue to own and use it. But they could only pass it on to companies, and senior firearms officers would be prevented from approving handguns to privates.
The bill is likely to pass with the support of the New Democratic Party. Conservatives on Monday criticized liberal gun control efforts, accusing them of unfairly targeting law-abiding gun owners and failing to crack down on illegal cross-border gun smuggling.
“Today’s announcement fails to focus on the root cause of gun violence in our cities: illegal weapons smuggled into Canada by criminal gangs,” Raquel Dancho, a Conservative public safety critic, said in a tweet. “The prime minister has had 7 years to fix this serious problem, but he continues to chase headlines and bury his head in the sand.”
The actions revealed Monday come after the government banned 1,500 types and models of “military-style offensive weapons” in 2020, after a gunman posed as an accused police officer in rural Nova Scotia, killing 22 people, including Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer. The deadliest mass shooting in the country.
The government said Monday that it plans to introduce a mandatory buy-back program that would provide compensation to owners of banned firearms. Details of the program are expected this summer, and the government hopes to begin buying back weapons, including AR-15s, of the type used in the Texas school attack, by the end of the year.
It’s going to be tough,” said Marco Mendicino, Canada’s minister of public safety. “But we’ll get it done.”
Some of the measures announced on Monday will not require parliamentary approval, but rather a change of regulations.
While mass shootings are relatively rare here compared to the United States, the rate of gun-related homicides has increased since 2013, according to data from Statistics Canada. It said the proportion of murders involving a firearm jumped from 26 percent in 2013 to 37 percent in 2020.
Nearly 60 percent of violent firearm-related crimes involve handguns, according to the National Statistics Agency. But it said there were “many holes” in the data, including “the source of firearms used in the crime” and “whether a gun used in a crime was stolen, illegally purchased, or smuggled into the country.”
During hearings in this year’s public inquiry into the “causes, context, and circumstances” of the Nova Scotia mass shooting, evidence was presented as to the source of the large cache of weapons that had the attacker, Gabriel Wortman, on hand during the hours-long assault.
Wortman, a dentist, did not possess a firearms license and obtained his weapons illegally. The commission learned that there had been “two, possibly three” cases, when the police received information about his access to firearms. Little, if anything, was done, according to testimony.
Several of the rifles were traced back to gun stores in nearby Maine. A friend there told police that Wortman took one or more of the pistols without his knowledge or permission, while giving the shooter a Ruger P89 “as a token of gratitude” for helping him “clear trees and other odd jobs in his house.”
The AR-15 came from a California gun shop, but Wortman first saw it at an armed show in Maine and someone else bought it for him. Witnesses told the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after the shooting that Wortman would dismantle the firearms and wrap them in the hood of his truck to be smuggled across the border.