Date: March 1, 2022
Classification: Unclassified
Branch / Agency: CPB

Proposed Response:

If pressed on the threat of handguns,

If pressed on Bill C-5 (Repeal of Minimum Mandatory Penalties)


Handguns continue to be the most frequently used type of firearm used in crime. Of the 277 firearms-related homicides in 2020, 135 (49%) were committed with a handgun, the single largest category. For firearms-related violent crime, a category that includes violent crimes (e.g. homicide, robbery) committed with a firearm, shootings (e.g. drive-bys), and pointing/threatening with a firearm, 54% of incidents in 2020 were committed with a handgun (23% long gun, 23% replica and other firearms-like weapons).

Of the 135 handgun homicides, 67 (49%) were gang-related, and 68 (51%) were not. Gang-related homicides involving a firearm dropped 20% in 2020 from 2019 rates. Non-gang-related handgun homicides rose, however, so that the handgun homicide rate rose in every province in 2020 except Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Nationally, 58% of the firearms traced in Canada in 2020 were domestically sourced (diverted, lost, or stolen). However, these figures vary significantly by type of firearm, by region, and by year. For example, while 87% of traced long guns were domestically sourced, only 28% of handguns were. However, the handgun figure is dominated by Ontario, where 79% of traced handguns were foreign-sourced. In BC and Quebec, the figure is closer to 50%, while in all other provinces, the figure drops well below 50%.

Federal handgun position

Federal action on handguns is predicated on reducing supply and demand. On the demand side, the 2020 Fall Economic Statement committed $250M million over five years, beginning in 2021‑22, to be provided directly to municipalities and Indigenous communities, to support community based prevention and intervention programs to reduce gun and gang violence. A formal announcement of the funding has not yet been made, and the timeline for funding delivery may not be met. An additional $8 million over four years (beginning 2019) was provided to the Youth Gang Prevention Fund, to fund prevention and intervention activities in Indigenous communities across the country.

On the supply side, in 2018 the Government announced $358.8M/5 years for the Initiative to Take Action Against Gun and Gang Violence (ITAAGGV), with an anticipated $100 million ongoing subject to approval. The majority of funds (over $214 million) are allocated to P/Ts under the Gun and Gang Violence Action Fund (GGVAF) to combat gun and gang violence in communities across Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) received $125M to enhance firearms investigations and strengthen controls at the border to prevent illegal firearms from entering the country.

Anti-smuggling and trafficking measures were also proposed in former Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms), introduced in Parliament on February 16, 2021. The Bill died on the Order Paper due to the 2021 general election. The Bill would have:

Bill C-21 also proposed to impose new restrictions on legal handguns in an effort to reduce access to firearms and hone in on urban areas given that they hold approximately 70% of handguns in Canada. It included a provision whereby compliance with handgun storage and transport restrictions would become a condition of federal firearms licence in municipalities that passed bylaws to: (1) prohibit storage at home (i.e. owners must store handguns at a licensed business); or, (2) prohibit storage anywhere in municipality, and transport to or from certain places in it. Breach of a condition of federal licence would carry a penalty of up to two years imprisonment and possible revocation of licence or registration certificate.

In its platform and the Speech from the Throne, the Government also committed to providing at least $1B to provinces and territories to support provinces or territories who implement a ban on handguns across their jurisdiction.

PT handgun positions

Given recent rising handgun violence, including youth victims, Quebec has pressed the federal government on firearms smuggling, the C-21 handgun provisions, and anti-gang funding. On December 8, 2021, the House of Commons passed a motion instructing the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to undertake as a priority a study on gun control, illegal arms trafficking and the increase in gun crimes committed by members of street gangs.

Quebec has taken recent action to reduce firearms violence. Operation Centaure, announced in September 2021, provided $90M to hire 107 police officers, forensic scientists, and corrections officers, and bring together more than 20 law enforcement agencies to investigate and prevent gun violence and reduce smuggling This is on top of $65M announced last fall for similar measures, Surêté du Quebec officers joining Montreal’s anti-gun unit, and more money to help youths exit from and avoid joining gangs.

Quebec, along with Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, have called for the federal government to withdraw the handgun provisions of C-21, arguing that municipalities should not be burdened with firearms regulatory enforcement. In fact, firearms is an area of shared jurisdiction (as confirmed in a 2000 Supreme Court decision), with municipalities across the country having bylaws on firearms discharge and areas of acceptable use, and provinces regulating hunting and having firearms laws centred on their property and civil rights heads of power. In March 2021, for example, British Columbia passed its Firearm Violence Prevention Act, which will establish new offences for unsafe use of firearms, keep gang members from using shooting ranges, and impound motor vehicles used to illegally transport firearms, among a range of other provisions.

Law enforcement role

The law enforcement role in fighting firearms crime is multifaceted. Police investigate firearms-related crime and trafficking rings, contribute to prosecution, and gather and report on data. The CBSA uses x-ray scanners, detector dog teams, parcel scanners, and other measures to interdict smuggled firearms at the border, with 678 (2020–21), 753 (2019–20) and 696 (2018–19) firearms seized in the past three years. However, with 21,000 firearms being seized by law enforcement authorities across Canada in 2020, it is likely that thousands of smuggled firearms are currently evading detection.

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