The federal government plans to fast-track a ban on the import of handguns into the country without the approval of Parliament using a regulatory measure that comes into effect in two weeks, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announced Friday.
The change will last until a permanent freeze is passed in Parliament and comes into force.
The government tabled gun control legislation in May that includes a national freeze on the importation, purchase, sale and transfer of handguns in Canada.
That law did not pass before Parliament took its summer break and is set to be debated again when MPs return to Ottawa in the fall.
In the meantime, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said she has the authority to ban any import or export permit in Canada.
Until now, she said there was no import permit system required for owners and businesses to buy handguns elsewhere in the world and bring them to Canada.
When the prime minister first announced the proposed legislation in the spring, Canada saw an uptick in gun sales, Joly said, and this temporary ban will prevent stores from stocking up on guns while the bill makes its way through the House of Commons and the Senate.
"Working with Marco, we came up with this idea of creating this new system of requiring permits," Joly said. "But meanwhile, we will deny any permits."
Government trade data shows Canada imported $26.4 million worth of pistols and revolvers between January and June — a 52 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.
Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho said the move targets law-abiding citizens and businesses rather than illegal and smuggled guns.
"Instead of addressing the true source of gun crime in Canada, the Liberal government is unilaterally banning imports without parliamentary input, impacting a multi-billion dollar industry and thousands of retailers and small businesses, with very little notice," Dancho said in a statement after the announcement.
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— files from Canadian Press