Editorial: Weapons Ban Hits Target
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau diverged from constant news about government responses to COVID-19 by announcing a ban on assault-style weapons in Canada on May 1.
Some 1,500 different models and types of firearms will be affected, with a two-year amnesty period in place to facilitate compliance.
The announcement followed the death of 22 people in several Nova Scotia communities at the hands of a gunman on the April 18-19 weekend. It was the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history, surpassing the killing of 14 women by one man at École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989.
One could view Trudeau’s announcement as being low-hanging political fruit to pick following a horrible national tragedy. That is especially so because police believe the gunman likely acquired the weapons illegally in the U.S. and so a Canadian ban on the sale of assault-style firearms would not have prevented his rampage.
But reducing gun violence in Canada has been a consistent policy of the federal Liberal party and government, and the announcement was reportedly already in the works when COVID-19 hit. A commitment to get handguns and assault rifles off Canadian streets was outlined in an initiative from 2018 called Reducing Violent Crime: A Dialogue on Handguns and Assault Weapons Engagement Paper.
That report references Statistics Canada data indicating that firearm-related violence has increased while violent crime in general has declined.
It also notes that some 900,000 handguns are registered to individuals in Canada, mainly for sport shooting activities or collection purposes. Canadian per-capita gun ownership is ranked the fifth highest in the world.
More government action is needed to be done to reduce the number of illegal firearms coming into Canada from the U.S. From 2017 to 2018, the Canada Border Services Agency seized 751 handguns and other firearms. Until more resources are put into detecting and discouraging smuggling, tragedies like the Nova Scotia incident could still occur in our country.
The ban announced on May 1 is a worthwhile step, however. No one in Canada outside of the military needs to own or use an assault rifle.