On Monday, Canada introduced a new gun-control legislation amid the aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting in the Texas, US.
If put into effect, the bill would implement a “national freeze” on the selling, buying, importing and transferring of handguns. The bill, which officials called “the most significant action on gun violence in a generation,” would also include “red flag” laws where judges can temporarily remove firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves and others.
Although the bill prevents handgun ownership, the freeze only pertains to new ownership — current owners will still be able to possess and use their firearms.
Following the announcement on Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa that the regulation was essential to saving lives.
“We recognize that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible and follow all necessary laws,” Trudeau said. “We are, however, facing a level of gun violence in our communities that is unacceptable.”
Gun smuggling is a big issue in Canada
There are several factors that drove Canadian officials to the newest gun-control legislation — one of them being the widespread issue of gun smuggling across Canada.
In 2020, roughly 85% of all crime guns seized by Toronto police were traced back to the United States. According to former gang leaders and criminals, getting an illegal gun in Canada has never been easier.
During a Commons public safety committee meeting in February, Toronto Police Deputy Chief Myron Demkiw said the majority of the guns used in crimes — at least the one’s police were able to trace— came from the US, something that has been on the increase since 2019.
The majority of these illegal guns are smuggled in cars with secret compartments as well as in shipping containers or even in gas tanks.
In 2020, Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) confiscated over 1,100 guns — a 55% increase from the previous year.
In order to combat gun smuggling without legislation in place, police took to tracing gun origins in order to keep track of where they were coming from and hopefully who was smuggling them.
On behalf of Canadian police requests, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) conducted close to 500,000 gun traces in 2020.
The process of sending a police request for gun tracing starts at the crime scene. If a gun is found at a crime scene, its serial number can be submitted to Ontario’s FATE program or the RCMP’s Canadian National Firearms Tracing Centre — both firearm tracing programs — which then sends a request to the ATF’s “eTrace” program.
The tracing usually takes four to seven business days and, once completed, provides the police with a trace document, outlining crucial details about the gun’s history.
Yet, despite some successes, only a few thousand police requests for gun tracing are made north of the border — leaving the problem still very much relevant.
Gun smuggling often leads to gun violence
Another factor that has led Canada to implement stricter gun regulations is the increase in mass shootings over the years — something Canada’s southern neighbor is also all too familiar with.
As the new report released Friday by Statistics Canada points out, gun violence has been on the rise in Canada since 2015, with handgun homicides rising from 26% in 2013 to 37% in 2020.
In fact, in April 2020, Canada saw its biggest mass shooting in history when a gunman posing as a police officer killed 22 people in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Trudeau announced an immediate ban on 1,500 types of what the government classifies as “assault-style“ weapons. The government proposed to create a buyback program for the newly prohibited firearms, but the bill died before last year’s federal election.
Since the bill’s failure in 2020, Liberals have been working hard to get some type of gun legislation passed.
During the 2021 election, Liberals proposed even stricter gun regulations, suggesting a mandatory program that would require owners of assault-style weapons to sell them back to the government. Trudeau even promised to start buying back AR-15 rifles before the end of 2020.
Gun-control regulation coming true
The latest bill announced by Trudeau on Monday will target gun smuggling and should cap the number of weapons in the country as well as remove firearms from people that are deemed a danger.
Coinciding with the new bill, Trudeau announced a mandatory buyback program that would offer compensation to owners of the banned firearms — authorities hoping to buy back many AR-15s.
One Canadian killed by gun violence is one too many. That’s why we’ve banned 1,500 types of military-style assault firearms. And that’s why, today, we’ve introduced legislation to further strengthen gun control in Canada. Thread ⤵️
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 30, 2022
Gun control advocates in the country have long called for a handgun ban, but some provincial and municipal officials have opposed it.
Instead of banning handguns altogether, the freeze is therefore set to cap handguns in the country but allow the people already in possession of handguns to keep them.
The bill is likely to pass with the New Democratic Party in support, although Conservatives criticized it, claiming that it unfairly targets law-abiding gun owners and fails to solve the issue at hand — gun smuggling.
Despite years of more gun control, bans, buybacks, and nearly a billion dollars spent, gun violence continues to go up in Canada. Today Trudeau doubled down on his failed approach and again promised Canadians it will keep them safe. It won’t, just as it hasn’t for years. #cdnpoli
— Raquel Dancho (@RaquelDancho) May 30, 2022
At the moment, the bill only pertains to non-gun owners, preventing future gun owners from possessing a firearm. Yet as the bill halts the selling and buying of all handguns, it allows current gun-owners to keep the handguns they have, but also prevents these firearm users from buying new — in a way modifying current gun-owner rights.
On how to stop gun smuggling, the bill intends to increase criminal penalties, provide more tools to investigate firearm crimes and will strengthen border measures.
Already, Trudeau mentioned increasing border funding prior to the bill has helped border officials double the amount of smuggled guns confiscated at the U.S. border.
As the bill goes into effect, the coming year will be a pivotal time for Canada in its battle to fight gun violence and smuggling — the entire world, including the United States, watching to see if Canada’s latest restrictions on guns are successful in preventing gun chaos. Whether successful or not, the outcome will serve as an example for other countries in deciding how to deal with the acquisition of handguns and the impact it may have on curbing gun violence.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: Man holding AR-15 in August 2013. Source: Infrogmation of New Orleans, Wikimedia.