New federal gun control bill expected this week

The federal government is expected to introduce new legislation this week that would strengthen laws surrounding the selling of firearms in an effort to crack down on gun violence.

Changes could include expanded background checks, ongoing screening

The government is expected to table new legislation that would amend the rules for selling firearms. (Steve Lambert/Canadian Press)

Note: This story has been corrected. Please see an updated correction notice below.

The federal government is expected to introduce new legislation this week that would strengthen laws surrounding the selling of firearms in an effort to crack down on gun violence. 

Changes could include "enhanced background checks" of someone trying to purchase a non-restricted firearm, although it is unclear what more could be done given the nearly 2 million Canadians with a firearms licence are already subject to continuous eligibility evaluations. According to the RCMP, daily police and court database checks "determine if any new information (occurrence) is identified indicating that a licence holder may have become a public-safety risk."

Among the proposals in the Liberals' 2015 election platform is a requirement that firearms vendors "keep records of all firearms inventory and sales," a database of information that could then be used by police investigating firearms trafficking and other gun crimes.

Currently, firearm vendors are not required under the Firearms Act to keep files of gun inventory and sales, however, many businesses still collect buyer information as a matter of good business practice or to comply with provincial requirements.

Anyone with a firearms licence can buy non-restricted firearms — and, in theory, could buy an unlimited number — and the stores that sold the firearms wouldn't be legally required to keep a record of the purchases.

The government previously required that businesses collect and keep point-of-sale data for non-restricted firearms. But those conditions were scrapped by the Harper government in 2012, at the same time the long-gun registry was abandoned.

New funding, new concerns

Revising firearms laws was an election promise from the Liberals, but little public action was taken until recently. 

In November, the government announced $327 million over five years, and $100 million every year after, for initiatives to reduce gun and gang-related crime.

It also convened a summit with community partners on guns and gangs at the beginning of the month.

According to their mandate tracker, the Liberals will not recreate a federal long-gun registry. 

The proposed bill comes at a time when there are countrywide concerns about homicide trends and gun violence in rural areas. 

There were 223 firearm-related homicides in Canada in 2016 — up 44 from 2015.

Statistics from the government also show that 2,223 firearms licences were revoked in 2016, with mental health concerns factoring in 424 of those cases.

Clarifications

  • This story has also been updated to provide more information about background checks currently in place for firearms licence holders.
    Mar 19, 2018 11:31 AM ET

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested that proof of a firearms licence is not required to purchase a firearm in Canada. In fact, a valid possession and acquisition licence is required. A previous version of the story also incorrectly referred to "unrestricted" firearms. The correct term is "non-restricted."
    Mar 18, 2018 11:22 PM ET