Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that he was introducing legislation to impose a “national freeze” on handgun sales, responding to an increase in homicides in his country and creating a sharp contrast with the gun debate in the U.S.
Trudeau made the announcement at a news conference in the capital, Ottawa, flanked by several of his government’s ministers.
“We cannot let the guns debate become so polarized that nothing gets done. We cannot let that happen in our country,” Trudeau said.
He said the ban would apply to buying, selling, transferring or importing handguns “anywhere in Canada.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether or when the legislation would become law. Trudeau’s office said new regulations to “help stop the growth of personally owned handguns in Canada” were expected to come into force this fall.
Trudeau also announced a gun buyback program to offer “fair compensation” to the owners and businesses affected by a 2020 law banning assault-style firearms.
Trudeau, who’s been prime minister since 2015, described the ban on handgun sales as an attempt to “cap the market” on handguns and protect bystanders.
“People should be free to go to the supermarket, their school or their place of worship without fear,” he said.
“People should be free to go to the park or to a birthday party without worrying about what might happen from a stray bullet.”
The number of registered handguns in Canada increased by 71 percent from 2010 to 2020, Trudeau’s office said in a statement. Canada reported 743 homicides in 2020, the highest number since 1991, and it reported its highest homicide rate since 2005.
The U.S. government has moved more slowly to respond to gun-related deaths. National proposals to restrict the sale of firearms have failed in recent years, although a bipartisan group of senators did begin informal talks last week after shooting rampages in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.
President Joe Biden said Monday that he hoped to agree with lawmakers on a “rational” response.
Canada’s gun ownership rate ranks seventh in the world, with 34.7 civilian firearms per 100 people, according to the Small Arms Survey, an academic research group in Geneva, Switzerland.
Canada has no equivalent of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which the Supreme Court has held guarantees Americans’ right to own firearms.