Trudeau signals new gun-control changes coming; here's what the Liberals have promised

In the wake of a horrific mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has signalled that the Canadian government will be moving ahead on new gun-control measures "in the coming weeks."

In previous Parliaments, the Liberals have made changes to Canada's gun laws, including strengthening background check requirements and banning more than 1,500 models and variants of "assault-style" firearms. And, while some elements of their plans have still yet to come to fruition—including their proposed mandatory gun buyback program—in the 2021 federal election, Trudeau promised to go further.

As part of his mandate, and stemming from Liberal campaign promises, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has been tasked with moving forward on a series of gun-control measures, including the recent announcement of regulations around firearm licence verifications and business record keeping.

As for what's outstanding, and could soon be coming from the federal government, the Liberals have promised to:

  • Follow through on requiring owners of banned firearms sell them back to the government to be destroyed or "rendered inoperable";
  • Move to ban the sale or transfer of high-capacity magazines that can hold more than the legal number of bullets;
  • Require long-gun magazines be permanently altered "so that they can never hold more than five rounds”;
  • Provide funding to provinces and territories who move ahead with banning handguns in their municipalities;
  • Increase the maximum penalties for firearm trafficking and smuggling; and
  • Table "red flag laws" that would allow firearms to be immediately removed if the owner is deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Speaking about the U.S. shooting, the public safety minister said it is a reminder that "we still have a lot of work to do" in Canada.

"It's not just about writing responsible and common-sense laws. It's not just about investing more in law enforcement… It's about stopping crime from occurring in the first place, isn't it?" Mendicino said on May 25.

Justice Minister David Lametti also has some overlapping responsibility when it comes to tabling the "red flag law" legislation.

In an interview on CTV News Channel's Power Play on May 25, he pledged "concrete measures" were in the works that he and other ministers have been involved in. Though, he declined to offer specifics about what exactly the government is planning to do in the short term.

"But I can say that there are options out there working with municipalities in terms of restrictions under the Firearms Act, that we might work with municipalities to enforce. There's obviously Criminal Code provisions,” Lametti said. I'm not going to promise any of that, I'm just going to say that these are the kinds of discussions that have been had."

With just a few weeks left in the House of Commons' spring sitting before MPs take a summer hiatus from debating and passing legislation, and other priority bills already moving through Parliament, should a new gun-control bill be presented in as Trudeau has said "the coming weeks," it's unlikely it would pass before the fall.

Between factoring in the time opposition parties would want to study any proposed new legislation, and the time that may be needed to implement any regulations stemming from potential new laws, it could be some time before further updates to Canada's firearm laws are in effect.

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