The Canadian government announced Friday that it will prohibit the importation of handguns into the country, the latest in a series of gun-control measures implemented by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Because the vast majority of handguns in Canada are imported, the ban effectively caps the number of such weapons already in the country without outright prohibiting them.
The announcement, made by Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, comes after the government introduced legislation in May to implement a “national freeze” on buying, importing, selling, and transferring handguns.
The regulatory measure announced on Friday enables the government to impose the freeze without having to wait for Parliament, which is on vacation until September, to pass legislation. It’s expected to come into effect in two weeks, reducing the window for gun stores to amass merchandise.
According to local media, handgun sales have skyrocketed since Trudeau’s government announced the freeze, prompting some lawmakers to express concern about a rush on handguns from legal gun owners looking to stock up before the legislation passes.
Gun control is widely supported in this country. However, critics argue that the emphasis on limiting handgun ownership unfairly targets law-abiding owners while doing little to address the underlying issue: Illegally smuggled guns across the border
According to Toronto’s police chief, roughly 80% of the firearms used in gun violence in Canada’s most populous city come from the United States, which has a significant gun culture, making it a “very difficult” issue to address.
The legislation, known as C-21, was introduced in May and includes “red flag” laws that would allow judges to temporarily remove firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, the suspension of gun licenses for people who have committed domestic violence, and harsher penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking.
Exemptions are included in both the legislation and the ban for those who hold an Authorization to Carry as part of their job, those who have an Authorization to Carry for protection, and authorized high-performance sport shooting athletes and coaches.
According to government data, Canada imported more than $28.2 million in revolvers and pistols in 2021, with nearly two-thirds of that volume coming from the United States. Total imports increased 7.7 percent over the previous year, but fell from a high of $34.7 million in 2018.
Mass shootings are uncommon in Canada compared to the United States, but the rate of firearm-related homicides has increased since 2013, according to Statistics Canada data.
According to the government statistics agency, handguns were used in more than 60% of gun-related violent crime in urban areas in 2020. However, it also stated that the data contained “many gaps” and limitations, such as the “source of firearms used in crime” and “whether a gun used in crime was stolen, illegally purchased, or smuggled into the country.” No province requires investigators to trace guns used in crimes.
Between 2021 and 2022, the Canada Border Services Agency seized 1,203 firearms. Pepper, a Yorkshire terrier, foiled an attempt to smuggle 11 handguns across the border from Michigan to Ontario in May by using a six-rotor drone.
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, there are approximately 2.2 million licensed firearms owners in Canada, with over 1.1 million firearms registered.
During the federal election campaign last year, Trudeau’s government promised tougher gun-control measures.
Evidence on the origin of the shooter’s large cache of weapons was presented during hearings this year in a public inquiry into the “causes, context, and circumstances” of the Nova Scotia attack.
An AR-15 was purchased from a gun shop in California, but Wortman first saw it at a gun show in Maine and had it purchased for him by another person. After the shooting, witnesses told police that Wortman would disassemble the firearms and roll them up in the payload cover of his pickup truck to smuggle them across the border.
Wortman was killed by Royal Canadian Mounted Police at a service area in Enfield, Nova Scotia, putting an end to his rampage. Police have not charged any of those who assisted him in obtaining the weapons, including those who may have violated US laws.