Gun rights advocates, such as the National Firearms Association (NFA) of Canada, as well as organizations in the United States, have criticized more stringent gun control in Canada, arguing that such laws violate the individual right to bear arms. Given the close geographical proximity of the two countries, gun rights groups in the United States fear that stricter laws in Canada foreshadow similar statutes in the United States. Inspection authority granted to Canadian government officials by the Firearms Act, which went into effect in 1998, is intended to ensure compliance with statutes regarding safe storage of firearms.
As in the United States, violence involving firearms has increased Canadian support for gun control. In 1989, following the murder of 14 women at the University of Montreal, additional types of weapons were restricted or banned and tighter standards for acquiring a gun permit were instituted. Canadians wishing to purchase a gun had to undergo evaluation and were required to take a safety course. Automatic firearms and semiautomatics capable of being adapted to automatic fire were banned. Still, millions of firearms remained in private hands, a troubling condition for many Canadian gun control advocates.
In 1994, after a series of highly publicized violent incidents involving firearms, the Coalition for Gun Control, supported by several groups representing such interests as the police, lawyers, teachers, health workers, and women, campaigned for stricter gun control legislation. The Liberal Party, which won the 1993 federal elections, promised to support stronger legislation. The NFA argued that further gun control would restrict the average Canadian's ability to defend him or herself against criminal activity. Opponents of stricter legislation noted that guns were consistently involved in only 32 percent of homicides, and just 27 percent of all robberies. Gun control supporters responded that the use of handguns in crimes had risen sharply. The general public strongly supported stricter gun control legislation. In 1993, 86 percent of respondents in a national poll supported registration of all firearms, 84 percent favored a prohibition on assault weapons, and 71 percent wanted to ban all handguns.
The new Firearms Act provides for inspection of businesses, gun collectors, owners of prohibited firearms, and owners with more than 10 firearms. Inspectors must give owners reasonable notice regarding the place to be inspected and must gain the consent of the resident. Police cannot use force to enter a home to conduct a search. Gun owners can be required to show their weapons to the police, but can bring them to the front door of the residence or to a police station.
Like the legal codes of most states in the United States, the Canadian criminal code