U.S. could learn a lesson from Canada's debate about assault weapons and handguns
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Dave Chan AFP)

In the wake of the horrific massacre at Uvalde, a hot debate is emerging at the federal level about what to do about the scourge of gun violence.

Unfortunately for Americans, that debate is raging north of their nation’s border in Canada. Unlike the U.S., where major gun-control legislation is viewed as a longshot, Canadians are renewing consideration of measures that go far beyond any action even mentioned in the U.S.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was expected today to propose “new measures to curb handguns (in) the Liberal government's latest — and likely boldest — suite of proposed actions to control access to firearms in Canada,” the CBC reported.

“Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino will present the bill after the daily question period before joining Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and supportive voices, including some city mayors, from across the country for a press conference. The legislation will revive some federal measures that did not pass before last year's general election and flesh out new proposals made during the subsequent campaign.

“They include a mandatory buyback of guns the government considers assault-style firearms, a crackdown on high-capacity firearm magazines and efforts to combat gun smuggling.”

The smuggling alludes to Canada’s own version of a crisis at its Southern border, ironically enough: The illegal flow of U.S. into the country. As The Guardian reported Sunday, America’s unwillingness or inability to control guns directly affects Canada.

“Experts say a significant number of firearms come into Canada illegally across the border from the United States, the Guardian reported, citing Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto’s Center for the Study of the United States.

“Increasingly, in many ways America’s gun problem is becoming Canada’s gun problem,” Lee said. But he added that Canada had its own issues:

“Even though the US has become an international poster child of gun control laws gone awry, there’s a lot more commonality here in Canada than people might be willing to admit.”

Canada is tied for eighth in gun ownership out of the more than 175 nations in the world that allow citizens to own firearms, according to the World Population Review. At 34.7 guns per 100 people, Canada has fewer than one-quarter of number of guns in the U.S. (120.7), but more than any other Western nation.

There is no Second Amendment protecting gun ownership in Canada, a fact confirmed in 1993 by the Canadian Supreme Court, according to CBC reporting. That has it dissenters, including Canada’s Conservative Party, which has pushed to the “hard right” on gun laws in recent years, the Halifax Examiner reported.

But though Trudeau’s Liberal Party is staking out gun-control positions unthinkable in the current climate of U.S. politics, some voices in the Canadian media insist the Liberals aren’t going far enough.

The editorial board of The Globe and Mail – viewed by many as Canada’s national newspaper – weighed in today with a scathing piece headlined, “Canada has a real gun violence problem, but it’s (mostly) not the one the Liberals want to talk about.”

The newspaper suggested that the Liberals too often confined their actions to the emotional wake of gun violence, whether in Canada or at Uvalde (which Trudeau and others spoke out about forcefully).

“But using such episodes to sell Canadian gun-control policies overlooks the fact that the biggest and most persistent gun-violence problem in Canada is not mass shootings,” the editorial board stated. “It’s the daily tally of individual violent crimes involving firearms, especially handguns. And the Liberals have done little to stem the growing number of these less-newsworthy crimes.

“A Statistics Canada report released last week says that, since 2009, the per capita rate of firearms being pointed at someone in the commission of a crime has nearly tripled, and the rate at which guns are fired with intent to kill or wound is up fivefold.”

But even in calling out the Liberals in Canada, the newspaper added this comment that deserves attention south of the border.

“On the plus side, hey, at least in Canada we have a government that responds to mass shootings by talking about preventing more of them – unlike the United States, where it is preordained thats yet another slaughter of children will not change American gun laws.”