The massacre of 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last week has pushed the Canadian government to further strengthen firearm regulations in the country, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warning that without strict gun control, Canada could begin seeing frequent mass shootings as the U.S. does.
“We need only look south of the border to know that if we do not take action, firmly and rapidly, it gets worse and worse and more difficult to counter,” said Trudeau regarding gun violence in a news conference Monday, where he announced a ban on new handgun sales and transfers and proposed a buyback program for assault weapons.
The prime minister announced the government is “capping the number of handguns in this country,” with any new sales, purchases, imports, and other transfers halted—a law that would likely take effect this autumn if the proposal is approved.
The handgun ban is part of Bill C-21, which would also take away the gun licenses of people who have committed domestic violence or forms of harassment including stalking.
Separately, the prime minister proposed a mandatory government buyback program for assault weapons. Last year gun control groups denounced a proposal for a voluntary program, which did not pass.
The buyback program would begin by the end of 2022 and would include AR-15s, the type of gun used in the shooting in Uvalde as well as by a gunman earlier this month at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, where 10 people were killed, and numerous other mass shootings in the U.S. in recent years.
Following the planned buyback of military-style assault weapons, Trudeau said, firearms like the AR-15 would automatically be banned if they enter the Canadian market in the future.
“We will continue working to ensure any new weapons that fit the definition of assault-style weapon are captured,” said the prime minister.
Bill C-21 is expected to pass with the support of the New Democratic Party, which has called for strict gun control.
The proposals come two years after Canada’s worst mass shooting, which took place in rural Nova Scotia and in which 22 people were killed. After that attack, Trudeau announced a ban on AR-15s and more than 1,500 other firearm models, but ultimately allowed owners to keep the guns with a permit, barring them from using, trading, or selling them.
By contrast, as the U.S. reels from its latest high-profile mass shooting—one of more than 200 this year so far and one that has already been followed by at least 15 mass shootings in the days since—lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are discussing expanded background checks for gun purchasers and red flag laws to take guns away from people who pose harm to themselves or others, with Democrats hoping to get a small number of Republicans to agree to the reforms.
Despite evidence that the expiration of the country’s assault weapons ban in 2004 correlated with a rise in mass shootings, a new ban is reportedly not on the negotiating table.
“The Texas attack so shocked a nation that it’s considering aggressive gun action,” said podcast host Lulu Garcia-Navarro. “Unfortunately for the country that suffered the attack, that country is Canada.”
While Canada’s gun-related homicide rate is 0.5 per 100,000 people and the United States’ rate is 4.12, Trudeau said Monday that the government is being spurred to action by the frequent reports of violence in the United States and by statistics showing that gun-related crimes have increased by 42% in the last nine years.
“One Canadian killed by gun violence is one too many,” Trudeau said. “I’ve seen all too well the tragic cost that gun violence has in our communities across the country. Today, we’re proposing some of the strongest measures in Canadian history to keep guns out of our communities and build a safer future for everyone.”
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