Canada’s gun reform laws: Would they work in the US?

U.S.

(NewsNation) —  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced legislation Monday that would put a freeze on importing, buying or selling handguns while it’s neighboring nation gears up for an intense debate over its own gun laws.

The announcement comes on the heels of the deadly mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school, and as the debate over U.S. gun laws is intensifying. If passed, the legislation would mark Canada’s strongest gun control measures in more than 40 years.

Any changes to U.S. gun laws aren’t likely to be as stringent as Canada’s, said Grant Reeher, a political science professor at Syracuse University and the director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute.

CANADA’S PROPOSED CHANGES

Trudeau’s plan includes freezing handgun sales nationwide, removing firearm licenses from people involved in domestic violence or criminal harassment, and requiring people who are considered dangerous to surrender their firearms to law enforcement.

A new “red flag” law would allow courts to require that people considered a danger to themselves or others surrender their firearms. According to the Canadian government, the measure would guard the safety of those applying through the process, often women in danger of domestic abuse, by protecting their identities.

In addition to the new legislation, long-gun magazines will need to be permanently altered so they can hold no more than five rounds at a time. The Canadian government will also ban the sale and transfer of large capacity magazines.

CURRENT CANADIAN LAW

Canada already has plans to ban 1,500 types of military-style firearms and offer a mandatory buyback program that will begin at the end of the year. Anyone set on keeping their assault weapon will have to make them completely inoperable, Trudeau said.

Last year’s budget provided more than $312 million in new funding for increased firearm tracing capacity and stronger border patrol measures to fight gun smuggling.

The Canadian government says agencies seized more than twice the number of firearms at the border in 2021, compared to 2020, which is also the highest number of firearms seized in recent years.

WHAT ABOUT THE U.S.?

The U.S. isn’t likely to see such strict gun laws take affect, NewsNation senior contributor George Will said.

A 2010 Supreme Court decision that established for the first time an individual right to own a gun noted that basic to the Second Amendment is the right to own a gun for self-defense.

“So no, given our Constitution, we could not do what he is proposing in Canada,” Will said.

Beyond the right to bear arms is a sentiment toward gun ownership that is unique to the U.S., Reeher said.

“Whether you’re looking at Western movies, or the story of the frontier, or the Revolutionary War, where you had civilians who are armed joining up in militias to fight the British — it’s just part of the American story in a way that … is not part of the Canadian story,” Reeher said. “And I think that has political resonance.”

To that end, the nations’ political climates vary.

“Canada is more like a European country in its orientation toward acceptance of the authority of the state, and the scope of the authority of the state and the government,” Reeher said.

There are, however, similarities between the U.S. and Canada’s efforts to curb gun crime. The U.S. has hosted its own gun buyback programs, including a recent event in New York City. The buyback netted dozens of weapons dropped off at a Brooklyn church, no questions asked.

In exchange, people received $200 gift cards—paid for with drug and gambling forfeiture—and iPads donated by the owner of the iconic cheesecake maker Junior’s restaurant.

“One thing to bear in mind is that there’s a little bit of a misnomer in calling what Canada is doing a buyback program,” Reeher said. “What it is, more aptly termed, is compensated confiscation … That’s different from a lot of the buyback programs that you see in the United States.”

The House Judiciary Committee is holding an emergency meeting this week to discuss a gun reform package, but any potential movement in Washington isn’t likely, Will said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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