Gun Control Issue Reveals a Changing Canada

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OTTAWA — Like public health care, Canada’s tight gun-control laws help distinguish the country from its powerful neighbor to the south. But as Canadians commemorated the 20th anniversary of one of the country’s most notorious shooting sprees on Sunday, their Parliament was on course to eliminate one of its most significant gun-control measures.

A long-gun registry, which requires the registration of rifles and shotguns, emerged largely from public revulsion over the massacre in 1989.

A decade before the Columbine high school shootings set off a national debate on gun violence in the United States, an angry, unemployed 25-year-old armed with a semiautomatic hunting rifle stormed the École Polytechnique, an engineering school in Montreal. Shouting “I hate feminists,” the gunman separated the female students from the men and killed 14 women before killing himself.

The crime was the sort that, even then, most Canadians thought could happen only in the United States. The anniversary was observed Sunday, as it has been every year since, by ceremonies across the nation. In Montreal, hundreds of people linked arms around a park near the school and about 1,000 people attended a vigil at Notre-Dame Basilica.

Parliament’s response to the crime was passage of the long-gun registry, and few issues since have so divided rural and urban Canadians. The law’s looming demise has revived the national debate over gun control and, with the wounds of 1989 still tender, raised deep questions about Canadian identity...

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