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Canada aims to cap the market for handguns with new legislation

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Nearly a week after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, legislation to freeze the sale of handguns has been introduced in Canada by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: It will no longer be possible to buy, sell, transfer or import handguns anywhere in Canada. In other words, we're capping the market for handguns.

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MARTINEZ: The sweeping proposals also include a pledge to begin a mandatory buyback of assault-style weapons that were banned two years ago. For more, reporter Emma Jacobs joins us from Montreal. Emma, how strict would these Canadian handgun restrictions be?

EMMA JACOBS, BYLINE: Prime Minister Trudeau notably is not calling this a ban but a freeze on new handgun purchases. The government will also require long gun owners to make permanent modifications so they can't hold more than five rounds of ammunition. People involved with domestic violence or stalking would lose their firearms license. And a new red flag law would let courts demand that someone identified as a danger to themselves or to others surrender their firearms to police.

MARTINEZ: All right. Now tell us about the timing of all this. What exactly prompted this?

JACOBS: Back in April of 2020, Canada's deadliest mass shooting took place. That's when a man in rural Nova Scotia shot and killed 22 people at multiple locations over a 13-hour period. Since then, Trudeau's government has introduced a series of gun control bills. And this announcement does come just after the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, which received extensive media coverage in Canada. But this is something the government has likely been working on for a while. The overall number of gun crimes and deaths has been rising in Canada for a number of years and the majority of those involve handguns. Back in 2020, Canada did ban 1,500 models of assault-style weapons, including the AR-15, which has been used in many mass shootings. One of Trudeau's cabinet ministers says the government intends to launch a mandatory buyback of those weapons later this year. The steps that Canada is taking, they do echo what New Zealand's government did in 2019 after a gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch. What's different is that Canada, unlike New Zealand, shares a very long border with the country with the largest number of guns in the world. That's the U.S.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, I'm going to ask you about that in a second. I'm wondering then - Trudeau proposed it. So how likely will it be approved by the Canadian parliament?

JACOBS: Trudeau and allied parties likely have the votes to pass this. You've got to remember, there's no Second Amendment in Canada. There is no right to gun ownership here. And Trudeau argues that other than sports, shooting or hunting, there is no reason anyone in Canada should need guns in their everyday lives.

MARTINEZ: All right. So what would stop someone, Emma, from just jumping over the border and buying a gun in the United States, a handgun?

JACOBS: Well, the imports would also be barred here. But police departments say Canada has an American gun problem that really has to do with smuggling. And this bill ups the penalties for smuggling guns. Last year, Toronto police said 86% of guns they seized after they'd been used in crimes could be traced back to the U.S. A couple of weeks ago, police in Ontario, they found a drone near the border that had been carrying 11 handguns when it got stuck in a tree. And actually, the gunman in the Nova Scotia killings in 2020, he used multiple firearms he'd smuggled in himself from Maine.

MARTINEZ: That's reporter Emma Jacobs in Montreal. Emma, thanks.

JACOBS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.