Canada to ban import of handguns pending total freeze

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Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Firearms remain popular in Canada, where ownership rules are strict

Canada is to ban imports of handguns - part of a move that could see a total freeze on their purchase and sale.

The measure, starting on 19 August, is designed to hold up until parliament passes strict new rules, including a permanent importation ban.

Handguns have "one purpose only and that is to kill people", Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said.

The government's proposed total ban, unveiled three months ago, follows outrage over several deadly shootings.

Manitoba Conservative MP Raquel Dancho condemned the move, saying it was "disrespecting an important part of Canada's cultural heritage", and "will do nothing to stop the flow of illegal handguns" from the US.

"Instead of addressing the true source of gun crime in Canada, the Liberal government is unilaterally banning imports without parliamentary input, impacting a multi-billion dollar industry and thousands of retailers and small businesses, with very little notice," she said in a statement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed the legislation - known as bill C-21 - days after a Texas primary school shooting in May that left 21 people dead.

The bill would make it impossible to buy, sell, transfer or import handguns anywhere in the country.

Unlike in the US, gun ownership is not enshrined in Canada's constitution, but firearms are still popular, especially in rural parts of the country.

Canada already has stricter rules on gun ownership than its southern neighbour.

For example, all guns must be kept locked and unloaded and anyone wishing to buy a firearm must undergo extensive background checks.

But there have been calls in recent years to further tighten gun legislation.

In April 2020, a gunman posing as a police officer killed 22 people during a shooting spree in Nova Scotia - the deadliest in Canada's history.

Within days, Mr Trudeau announced an immediate ban on 1,500 different kinds of military-grade and assault-style weapons.

A statement after the announcement of Friday's import ban, said the number of registered handguns in Canada had increased by 71% between 2010 and 2020, reaching approximately 1.1 million.

"We know that one Canadian killed by gun violence is one too many. As a government, it is our duty to ensure that Canada remains one of the safest places to live in the world. The import ban announced today will help to keep guns stay off our streets... reducing gun violence in the immediate term," said Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly.

Media caption,

Trudeau on weapons ban: "You don't need an AR-15 to bring down a deer"