Canada proposes national freeze on gun sales and buying back assault rifles after Uvalde shooting

Canada would implement a “national freeze” on handgun ownership and force owners of “military-style assault weapons” to sell their guns to the government under newly introduced legislation, prime minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday.

“As a government, as a society, we have a responsibility to act to prevent more tragedies,” Mr Trudeau said on Monday.

The proposals, which are expected to pass, come in the wake of last week’s deadly mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 21 people, and a 2020 incident in rural Nova Scotia that killed 22 people in Canada’s deadliest mass shooting.

The gun buyback plan is modeled on other successful efforts in the wake of national tragedies.

In 2019, New Zealand banned semiautomatic weapons and bought back guns following attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that killed 51 people.

Following a 1996 shooting in Port Arthur, Australia, the government collected more than 650,000 semiautomatic rifles and numerous shotguns after such weapons were banned.

Government purchases of guns could begn later this year.

Under the Canadian legislative proposals, people would also no longer be able to buy, sell, import, or transfer handguns, and those shown to have committed domestic violence or criminal harassment like stalking could have their gun licenses taken away.

The bill, known as C-21, would also require long-gun magazines to be permanently altered to hold no more than five bullets.

“Other than using firearms for sport shooting and hunting, there is no reason anyone in Canada should need guns in their everyday lives,” the PM added on Monday.

Canada already has stricter gun laws than the US.

The US has never engaged in a large-scale assault weapon buyback like other nations, but it did temporarily ban semiautomatic weapons, though the prohibition lapsed in 2004.

President Biden has said he believes he and Senate Republicans like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn of Texas can come to a “rational” agreement on gun control legislation, though both of the latter men have strongly opposed past attempts at weapons control.

Previous attempts at gun control in Canada have come in for criticism in their own.

A past version of the buyback programme, where the surrender of weapons was voluntary, went unpassed in 2021 and was strongly criticised by gun-control groups for not going far enough.

“It was a total failure,” Heidi Rathjen, of PolyRemembers, a group of survivors of the 1989 École Polytechnique shooting, told The Globe and Mail, calling that attempt “an empty shell that was designed to do as little as possible and provide talking points to the politicians.”

Gun control has long been a priority of Mr Trudeau’s Liberal government, which has spent more than $920 million since 2016 on gun control efforts.

In 2020, Canada banned more than 1,500 kinds of assault weapons, including the type of rifle used in the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting.

Earlier this month, it also introduced rules requiring businesses to keep detailed records of gun sales, check customer identities, and make sure they are licensed to carry weapons.

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