Justin Trudeau Points to U.S. Gun Violence in Vow to Freeze Handgun Sales in Canada: 'This Is About Freedom'

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Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, speaks during a press conference at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Monday, May 30, 2022. After banning 1,500 types of military-style assault firearms in 2020, Trudeau now announced new legislation to further strengthen gun control in Canada.
Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, speaks during a press conference at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Monday, May 30, 2022. After banning 1,500 types of military-style assault firearms in 2020, Trudeau now announced new legislation to further strengthen gun control in Canada.

David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pointed to gun violence in the U.S. while introducing new legislation that would put a "national freeze" on handgun sales in Canada.

"It will no longer be possible to buy, sell, transfer or import handguns anywhere in Canada," Trudeau said during a press conference Monday. "In other words, we're capping the market for handguns."

In addition to new restrictions on handgun sales, the proposed measures would revoke firearms licenses from people involved in acts of domestic violence and criminal harassment, increase penalties for gun smugglers and create a "red flag" law that would require individuals considered by courts to be a danger to themselves or others to turn over firearms, according to a press release from the prime minister's office.

"Unfortunately, the reality is in our country [gun violence] is getting worse and has been getting worse over the past years," Trudeau, 50, said. "We need only look south of the border to know that if we do not take action, firmly and rapidly, it gets worse and worse and more difficult to counter."

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Canadians who already own handguns would be allowed to keep them under the new rules, which allow exceptions for elite sport shooters, Olympic athletes and security guards, Reuters reports. The government also announced a requirement to permanently alter long-gun magazines to carry no more than five rounds and a ban the sale and transfer of large capacity magazines.

"These are actions that doctors, experts and chiefs of police have been calling for for years," Trudeau said. "We're acting on their advice."

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The prime minister acknowledged that "the vast majority" of gun owners in Canada use their firearms safely and legally.

Uvalde victims memorial
Uvalde victims memorial

Elaine Aradillas Memorial for the 21 victims of the Uvalde school shooting

"But other than using firearms for sport shooting and hunting, there is no reason anyone in Canada should need guns in their everyday lives," Trudeau said. "Canadians certainly don't need assault style weapons that were designed to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time."

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Unlike in the U.S., the right to own guns is not enshrined in Canada's constitution but Trudeau acknowledged a rise in gun violence there as a reason for acting to address it.

The bill is reportedly likely to pass.

"We cannot let the guns debate become so polarized that nothing gets done. We cannot let that happen in our country," he said in perhaps another reference to the issue of gun violence in the U.S., where back-to-back shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, in recent weeks reignited the perennial debate over access to firearms. "This is about freedom. People should be free to go to the supermarket, their school or their place of worship without fear."

"Gun violence is a complicated problem but at the end of the day, the math is really quite simple," Trudeau added. "The fewer the guns in our communities, the safer everyone will be."