A new landmark bill proposed in Canada would see a national freeze on handguns cemented into law, address the alarming role of firearms in domestic violence and take aim at organized crime.
On May 1, the Minister of Public Safety, the Honourable Marco Mendicino, announced proposed enhanced measures to strengthen Bill C-21, which is currently being reviewed by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
The proposed legislative measures would:
- Establish a new technical definition which contains the characteristics of an assault-style firearms, illegal in Canada. This is a forward-looking definition, meaning it would not apply to firearms currently on the market. It would be inserted into the Criminal Code and the Import Control List and apply to firearms designed and manufactured after the provisions come into force, so that firearms that exceed safe civilian use are not introduced into communities.
- Through regulations, require that manufactures seek a Firearms Reference Table number before being allowed to sell in Canada. These regulatory measures would ensure that no firearm goes unaccounted for in the classification process.
- Tackle the issue of ghost guns by enacting new offenses and classifying ghost guns and other illegally made firearms as prohibited.
- Respect the rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis by including a specific provision stating that nothing proposed in Bill C-21 derogates from the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Other new measures would:
- Re-establish the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee to independently review the classification of existing firearms. Due to misinformation in recent months, the debate over specific guns has become polarized. With a diverse membership, the Committee will make expert recommendations to account for any gap in the market. The Canadian government will appoint this Committee within 60 days and seek a recommendation on the classification of firearms by August 31, 2023. The classification assessment is a direct response to Recommendation 38 (C.21) of the Mass Casualty Commission.
- Chart a course to improve regulations for large capacity magazines. Canada intends to update regulations regarding large-capacity magazines in the very near future. Other regulations would ban the sale of transfer of magazines capable of holding more than the legal number of bullets.
This announcement follows engagement with Canadians across the country. These included survivors of gun violence, hunters and trappers; First Nations, Inuit and Métis; and rural and Northern residents. It is also the product of significant conversations with Parliamentarians. Furthermore, the measures reflect the input of experts in the field. Most significantly, these proposed amendments align with recommendations put forward by the Mass Casualty Commission.
No single program or initiative can tackle the challenge of gun violence alone. These measures are part of the Canadian government’s comprehensive plan to keep citizens safe from gun crime. It begins with strong borders, with added resources to fight smuggling and stop guns from coming into Canada. From 2021 to 2022, the Canada Border Services Agency seized more than 1,200 firearms, the largest number of seizures recorded in a single year. Other measures involve strong legislation, including the ban on assault-style firearms, the buyback program, and the national handgun freeze. Finally, Canada is investing in strong prevention strategies, most notably the $250 million Building Safer Communities Fund, which aims to stop gun crime before it starts.