Americas

Canada moves to halt handgun imports, but some skeptical if ban will help

Last year 86% of handguns seized in Toronto, Canada's largest city, were brought in illegally from US

Barry Ellsworth   | 05.08.2022
Canada moves to halt handgun imports, but some skeptical if ban will help FILE PHOTO

TRENTON, Canada

Canada moved Friday to ban the importing of handguns as of Aug. 18, but the effectiveness of the ban was questioned since figures show that last year, 86% of the weapons traced in Toronto were smuggled in illegally from the US.

The ban announced Friday is temporary until parliament can pass it into law later this year. The bill includes a nationwide freeze on the importing, purchasing, selling, and transferring ownership of handguns, as well as stiffer penalties and tougher background checks to weed out those who may pose a danger to themselves or others.

“Given that nearly all our handguns are imported, this means that we’re bringing (in) our national handgun freeze even sooner,” Public Safety Minister Marc Mendicino said, adding that "the number of handguns in Canada will only go down.”

A billion-dollar mandatory buyback program on assault-style weapons is also in effect, with legal owners having until October 2023 to turn over their weapons.

But not everyone agrees the handgun ban will be effective.

Toronto Police Deputy Chief Myron Demkiw told a House of Commons safety committee in February that it is illegal guns from the US that need attention.

He said that in 2021, 86% of the handguns traced by investigators in Canada’s largest city with a population of 2.9 million were smuggled into Canada from the US.

“Our problem in Toronto are handguns from the United States,” he told the committee. Demkiw said more money and effort in cutting down the guns coming across the border illegally would be a more effective use of resources.

Regina (Saskatchewan) Police Chief Evan Bray agreed, telling the committee that gun laws are not going to stop the smuggling.

“Generally speaking, most of the laws we create are not going to be followed by the people who are committing the crimes with the guns," he said. "We have a ban on murder in Canada and yet sadly we still have homicides happening all the time.”

Still, government trade figures show CAN$26.4 million ($20.5 million) in handguns were imported into Canada legally in the first six months of 2022, a jump of 52% from the same period in 2021.

Government figures show that as of 2020 there were about 1.1 million legally registered handguns in Canada.

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