New gun control legislation the federal government tabled today includes a national freeze on the purchase, sale, importation and transfer of handguns in Canada.
The government also is pledging to start buying back thousands of banned assault weapons before the end of the year.
While the proposal falls short of a full ban on handguns, it would effectively limit their number in Canada.
“In other words, we’re capping the market for handguns,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a press conference Monday.
“As we see gun violence continue to rise, it is our duty to keep taking action.”
WATCH | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new gun control legislation
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino presented the bill, C-21, in the House of Commons Monday.
“The bill we just tabled represents a milestone amidst a long and difficult battle which takes place on our streets every single day,” Mendicino said at the news conference. “It’s a battle which has claimed too many lives, leaving empty chairs at the dinner table, and empty desks in our classrooms.”
They include taking away firearms licences from those involved in domestic violence or criminal harassment, increasing criminal penalties for smuggling and trafficking of firearms, and a “red flag” law which would require people deemed a threat to themselves or others to turn in their firearms to law enforcement.
The government previously proposed working with provinces and territories to put restrictions on handguns. Trudeau said his government abandoned that idea after consultations.
“In our discussions with law enforcement, advocates and experts, it became apparent that we needed a different solution,” he said.
“So we decided to take a new route, something that would tackle this issue at a national level.”
The legislation, if passed, would require magazines for long guns to be changed so they can’t carry any more than five rounds. Sales of larger magazines would be banned.
It also would increase the maximum penalty for offences under the law, such as illegally owning, acquiring or manufacturing a firearm, from 10 years imprisonment to 14.
“We recognize that the vast majority of gun owners use them safely, and in accordance with the law,” Trudeau said.
“But other than using firearms for sport shooting and for hunting, there is no reason anyone in Canada should need guns in their everyday lives.”
Government promises to buy back assault weapons
Mendicino confirmed that the government would be proceeding with a mandatory buyback program for the over 1,500 assault-style weapons the government banned two years ago — including the AR-15. He said the details will have to wait for consultations with industry on compensation and likely won’t be available until this summer.
He said that the first weapons would be bought back before the end of this year.
“It’s going to be hard but we are going to get it done,” Mendicino said.
He added that the government is aiming to ban an even larger number of assault-style weapons through an amendment to the bill.
The legislation comes after a number of mass shootings in the United States, including a recent shooting at an elementary school that killed 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, Texas. Trudeau said in response to the massacre that Canadians are “remarkably united” in wanting to reduce gun violence at home.
Prior to the presentation of the bill, the House unanimously voted in favour of a motion expressing its horror at the Uvalde shooting and condolences to the family, friends and communities of the victims.
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