TORONTO ( Associated Press) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced a bill Monday that would freeze the import, purchase and sale of handguns nationwide.
“We are limiting the number of guns in this country,” Trudeau said.
Regulations to curb the growth in the number of personally owned handguns are expected to be enacted by the end of the year.
“It will be illegal to buy, sell, transfer or import handguns anywhere in Canada,” the prime minister said. Family members of shooting victims joined him at a news conference in Ottawa.
The Canadian government already plans to ban 1,500 types of military-grade firearms and offer a mandatory buy-back program beginning at the end of the year. Trudeau said that if someone really wants to keep their assault weapon, it will be rendered inoperable.
Canada has already expanded background checks.
Trudeau has long planned to enact tougher gun laws, but the initiative’s introduction came after the mass shootings this month in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.
Security and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said Canada is very different from the United States.
“In Canada, gun ownership is a privilege, not a right,” he said. “This is a principle that differentiates us from many other countries in the world, especially from our colleagues and friends from the south. In Canada, the sole purpose of guns is to use them for hunting and sport.”
There are far fewer mass shootings in Canada than in the United States, in part because of the lack of easy access to guns, although the American population is also much larger than Canada.
According to Blair, the weapons are often smuggled in from the United States, which has one of the largest stockpiles of small arms in the world.
The Canadian government plans to combat gun smuggling and trafficking by increasing criminal penalties, providing more tools to investigate firearms crime, and tightening border enforcement.
Trudeau said the increased funding has already allowed border agents to double the number of smuggled weapons seized at the US border.
The bill would also allow gun licenses to be withdrawn from people involved in acts of domestic violence or criminal harassment, such as stalking.
The bill would create a new “red flag” law that would allow courts to require that people deemed a danger to themselves or others turn over their firearms to police.
The government said the move will protect the safety of applicants, often women at risk of domestic abuse, by keeping their identity secret.
The Canadian government said it will require magazines for rifles to be permanently modified so they can never hold more than five cartridges, and will ban the sale and transfer of high-capacity magazines under the Penal Code.
“Canada can teach us a lot,” tweeted Bruce Heyman, a former US ambassador to Canada during the Obama administration.
Trudeau noted that his government recognizes that the vast majority of Canadians who own guns are responsible, but that the level of gun violence is unacceptable. “This is a real, concrete national step that will go a long way toward making Canadians safe,” Trudeau said.
The approval of the new measures is assured in the Canadian Parliament, since the Liberal party – to which Trudeau belongs – and its ally the New Democratic Party have enough votes.