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Gun Laws: Canada v USA
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
Shawn graduated with a law degree from University of Western Ontario. Shawn articled in Ottawa, specializing in criminal defence work. Since his call to the bar in 1991, he continues to practice in this area.

After the tragic shooting in an elementary school in Newtown, I have been fascinated by the way the US political system is dealing with proposed changes to the United States gun laws, especially in how it compares to our Canadian laws.

At present, in virtually all States, an individual can carry a handgun (often loaded and concealed) without any licence or permit. Further, most States allow an individual to own military-style semi-automatic rifles with large capacity gun clips. The proposed law changes in the USA would make a limited number of assault rifles no longer available for sale (if you already own one you would still get to keep it) and would require a background check before you could purchase a new gun. Even these very modest proposals are being challenged by the National Rifle Association and many Republican lawmakers.

To contrast the USA versus our country, in Canada it is illegal to possess an assault-style weapon and has been for many years. It is illegal to possess a handgun unless you have a Restricted Weapon Permit which requires the individual to take a full-day course to get their weapons permit and a second full-day course to get their Restricted Weapons Permit. Even then, that permit will not be issued until it has been vetted by the government and the police. Further, even if you have a permit in Canada for a handgun, it will not allow you to carry it in a concealed, loaded fashion. Canada also has a strict regulation regarding the number of ammunition that can be in a clip, how guns and ammunition must be stored, and how guns and ammunition must be stored locked and secured.

Last year in the USA, over 30,000 died as a result of gun use, more than 9,000 people were murdered using a gun. Compare that to Canada where there were a total of 144 gun-related murders.

Sometimes it is good to live in Canada.

Shawn Swarts is a partner at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP.

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