Government introduces bill to cap handguns, pledges to buy back assault weapons

New gun control legislation introduced by the federal government today includes a national freeze on the purchase, sale, import and transfer of handguns in Canada.

The government also pledges to start buying back thousands of banned assault weapons before the end of the year.

Although the proposal is not a total ban on handguns, it would effectively limit their number in Canada.

“In other words, we are capping the handgun market,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday at a news conference.

“As we see gun violence continue to increase, it is our duty to continue to act.”

LOOK | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new gun control legislation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new gun control legislation

Trudeau says the gun control bill tabled today includes a national freeze on the sale, import and transfer of handguns in Canada, making it the most ambitious attempt government to date to restrict access to firearms in this country.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino introduced the bill in the House of Commons on Monday.

“The bill we just introduced represents an important step in the midst of a long and difficult battle that is being fought on our streets every day,” Mendicino said at the press conference. “It’s a battle that has cost too many lives, leaving empty chairs at tables and empty desks in our classrooms.”

The legislation revives some federal measures that were not passed before last year’s general election and implements some new proposals made during the campaign.

They include revoking firearms licenses for those involved in domestic violence or stalking, increasing criminal penalties for smuggling and trafficking firearms, and a “red flag” law that would require people considered a threat to themselves or others to surrender their firearms to law enforcement.

The government had previously offered to work with provinces and territories to impose restrictions on handguns. Trudeau said his government abandoned the idea after consultations.

“During our discussions with law enforcement, lawyers and experts, it became clear that we needed a different solution,” he said.

“So we decided to take a new path, something that would tackle this issue at a national level.”

The legislation, if passed, would require long gun magazines to be modified so that they cannot carry more than five rounds. Sales of major magazines would be prohibited.

It would also increase the maximum penalty for offenses under the law, such as illegally possessing, acquiring or manufacturing a firearm, from 10 years’ imprisonment to 14 years.

“We recognize that the vast majority of gun owners use them safely and within the law,” Trudeau said.

“But other than the use of firearms for sport shooting and hunting, there is no reason anyone in Canada needs firearms in their day-to-day life.”

The government promises to buy back the assault weapons

Mendicino confirmed that the government would implement a mandatory buy-back program for the more than 1,500 assault-type weapons that the government banned two years ago, including the AR-15. He said details will have to await consultations with industry on compensation and are unlikely to be available until this summer.

He said the first guns would be redeemed before the end of this year.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino introduced the bill in the House of Commons on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“It’s going to be difficult, but we’ll get there,” Mendicino said.

He added that the government aims to ban even more assault weapons through an amendment to the bill.

The legislation comes after a number of mass shootings in the United States, including a recent elementary school shooting that killed 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, Texas. Trudeau said in response to the massacre that Canadians are “remarkably united” in their drive to reduce gun violence at home.

Before the bill was introduced, the House voted unanimously in favor of a motion expressing its horror at the Uvalde shooting and its condolences to the family, friends and communities of the victims.

Helen L. Cuellar