Canada imposes import ban on handguns

(AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

Back in May, the Trudeau administration announced support for a bill that would halt the legal sale, purchase, and transfer of all handguns in Canada and allow for municipalities to ban the possession of pistols outright. In the months since sales of handguns have surged across the country; a development that should surprise no one. If people are told they won’t soon be allowed to buy something, that tends to increase their desire to get it before it goes away. This particular “limited time offer,” however, has not only prompted thousands of Canadians to purchase a handgun for the very first time, it’s led to the Canadian government to up its anti-gun stance by banning outright the importation of pistols into the country.

Such guns “have one purpose and one purpose only and that is to kill people,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told a press briefing announcing the move.

Global Affairs Canada added in a statement that the ban for businesses and individuals was a temporary measure, set to “last until the national freeze comes into force,” which is expected to happen by the fall.

The announcement was welcomed by arms control group PolySeSouvient, which called it an “important and innovative measure that will undoubtedly slow the expansion of the Canadian handgun market pending the passage” of the handgun freeze.

Experts remain skeptical about the effectiveness of gun control measures taken by Ottawa, pointing to the smuggling of guns from the neighbouring United States as the real problem.

On Wednesday, the Canada Border Services Agency announced two major seizures in western Canada of “ghost guns,” which have no serial numbers and are difficult to trace.

Just like with gun control laws here in the United States, criminals are going to shrug off Trudeau’s backdoor gun ban because they’re not getting their guns through legal means in the first place.

Unlike the United States, however, there is no right to keep and bear arms in Canadian law, at least according to the country’s highest court.

“Canadians, unlike Americans, do not have a constitutional right to bear arms,” the high court stated in 1993, in a decision over the possession of convertible semi-automatic weapons.

“Indeed, most Canadians prefer the peace of mind and sense of security derived from the knowledge that the possession of automatic weapons is prohibited,” said the court.

The rights issue was tested again in the case of an Ontario firearms dealer and manufacturer.

Bruce Montague was charged with several weapons offences after police found more than 200 firearms and 20,000 rounds of ammunition at Montague’s home in northwestern Ontario.

Montague didn’t renew the registrations on his weapons, convinced that he had a constitutional right to bear arms without government interference or regulation, despite the passage of Bill C-68, the Firearms Act, in 1995.

Montague argued that he had “a constitutional right to possess firearms for self defence” derived from the constitution of Britain.

He pointed to the preamble of the Constitution Act, 1867, Canada’s founding constitutional document, which in his view imported the English Bill of Rights of 1689, which states in Article 7: “That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.”

Montague further argued that in 1982, this historical right was shielded from any ordinary legislation by section 26 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which reads: “The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed as denying the existence of any other rights or freedoms that exist in Canada.”

His convictions were upheld in the Ontario Court of Appeal and in September 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear a final appeal, without offering reasons.

We may see a lawsuit filed by one or more gun shop owner over the import ban, but I think any litigation hoping to undo the move is unfortunately going to face long odds in court.

I also doubt that Trudeau is going to stop here. When (not if) this ban fails to stop violent criminals from illegally using guns in violent crimes it’s likely that the prime minister will finally adopt what gun control activists in Canada have been calling for all along: an outright ban on the possession of all handguns. The Trudeau administration is already moving ahead with its compensated confiscation of so-called assault weapons, and Canadian gun owners are right to be concerned about a similar push to confiscate handguns from law-abiding citizens in the not-too-distant future.