After the gun massacres in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged action on gun control. Due to the Democrats’ shaky majority in Congress, however, the future of any such proposal is already in jeopardy.
Canadian lawmakers, meanwhile, are making bolder moves, introducing legislation on Monday that would lead to a national freeze of handgun sales and would empower courts to temporarily take away guns from those deemed unfit to handle them. According to The Washington Post, the country’s government is also planning to implement a mandatory buyback program for owners of firearms that have been banned in Canada, for example assault-style rifles.
Other than in the U.S., confidence in the success of these legislative initiatives is high in Canada, but does this reflect in a difference of public opinion on the issue? According to Canada’s largest market researcher, Leger, this is not really the case.
This chart shows the share of respondents in the U.S. and Canada saying they are for stricter/less … [+] strict gun control (in %).
According to a survey carried out in 2021, 60% of Americans said they were in favor of stricter gun laws, compared to 66% of Canadians. 10% of surveyed Canadians said that gun laws instead should be less strict, as did 12% of Americans. A poll by Morning Consult and Politico taken shortly before last week’s shooting in Uvalde rendered a similar result concerning the number of Americans who are in favor of stricter legislation on the issue.
A major reason for the difference in confidence can be found in Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s stronger majority but also in the political system that differs significantly between the two countries. Trudeau’s Liberals have partnered with the left-leaning New Democratic Party to gain a 55% seat majority in the country’s House of Commons, while Biden’s smaller 51% seat majority in the House and the Senate is often disturbed by dissenters like Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) or Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona). Even if the party line would hold on gun control, the U.S. Democrats would still be up against the filibuster in the Senate—also not a problem in Canada, where the parliament’s upper house is seen as the non-dominant chamber whose appointed members rarely reject legislation.
Checks and balances
While both countries are not true representative democracies as parliamentary seats are given out on a winner-takes-all basis, the U.S. Senate once again represents an example of checks and balances over strict representation, assigning each state two seats despite their populations ranking from less than 600,000 (Wyoming) to 39.6 million (California). As less densely populated states are more often rural and Red, Senate Republicans have been representative of a majority of the U.S. population for only two years since 1980, according to research published in The Atlantic, despite controlling the Senate for more than 22 out of the years in question.
An assault weapons ban like the one that is now being floated in the U.S. is already a reality in Canada, having been implemented after the Nova Scotia mass shooting of 2020­. The rampage was the deadliest in Canada’s history, killing 22 people. According to Leger, 52% of Canadians believe assault-style weapons should be handed back to the government, while only 35% said owners should get to decide.

Charted by Statista

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