Shootings at schools or universities are rare in Canada, making the Friday incident in Saskatchewan the worst shooting to have happened in a decade, according to the Associated Press.
Canada recorded only three mass shootings between 2000 and 2014, the Wall Street Journal reports. That same study, by researchers Jaclyn Schildkraut of the State University of New York in Oswego and H. Jaymi Elsass of Texas State University, tallied 133 mass shootings in the US.
Canada continues to mourn the high school shooting by a single gunman in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, that left at least four dead, and two injured. The suspected shooter is in police custody. But it's unclear whether this shooting will renew a debate over the country’s gun laws.
Canadian gun laws are stricter compared to the US, and unlike the Second Amendment of the United States, the Canadian constitution does not provide protection for the right bear arms.
Is there a correlation between the relatively few mass shootings in Canada and the strict gun laws?
There's a complex debate around this question which continues to rage around the world. The National Observer reports that “roughly 300 million firearms in the U.S. according to some estimates, nearly one per person in a country of 319 million people. By contrast, Canada had approximately seven million registered firearms at the end of 2011, in a country of roughly 35 million people.”
According to a 2012 Statistics Canada report, Canada recorded a total of 172 firearm related homicides compared to the 8,813 firearm related homicides in the United States.
But gun-control critics point to a decline in US gun homicides even as gun ownership has risen.
Most observers say Canadian gun laws in recent years have been shaped by the worst mass shooting in Canada, which occurred more than 25 years ago, on Dec. 6, 1989. That's when Marc Lépine shot and killed 14 female students with a semiautomatic rifle at the Université de Montréal’s engineering school.The tragedy prompted the government to introduce stricter gun laws, which was loosened for rifles by the conservative government in 2012, citing costs.
During the recent election, Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party proposed a new set of measures that would tighten the Canadian gun laws. The measures include requiring enhanced background checks for anyone seeking to purchase a handgun or other restricted firearm, repealing changes made by Bill C-42 that allowed restricted and prohibited weapons to be freely transported without a permit and to tighten border security that would prevent illegal arms from entering Canada from the United States.
Firearms are classified into three categories under the Canadian constitution; prohibited, restricted and unrestricted. Prohibited firearms include military-grade assault weapons such as AK-47s and sawn-off rifles or shotguns. Restricted firearms include all handguns that do not fall under the "prohibited" class, as well as semi-automatic weapons with barrels shorter than 47 cm (18.5 inches) while rifles and shotguns are classified as non-restricted.
Under Canadian law, individuals are required to hold a license from the federal government, to purchase and possess a firearm. The license lasts five years and requires an individual to pass a gun safety course. Individuals who wish to possess restricted and prohibited firearms must take additional safety government courses.