Canada has banned new handgun sales in the country’s strongest gun control regulation for 40 years.

The new measures, which took effect on Friday, stop people from buying, selling or transferring handguns within Canada, and prevents them from bringing newly bought handguns into the country.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the move builds on earlier efforts to ban handgun imports.

Mr Trudeau announced a handgun freeze in May as part of his plan to tackle gun violence, his office said.

“We have frozen the market for handguns in this country,” Mr Trudeau said at a news conference in Surrey, British Columbia, attended by family members of gun violence victims and other advocates.

“As we see gun violence continue to rise… we have an obligation to take action.

“Today our national handgun freeze is coming into force.”

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Mr Trudeau’s public safety minister, Marco Mendicino, called the move the “most significant action on gun violence in a generation”.

He added: “We made a commitment to Canadians that we would act – and we are. The national freeze will tackle the alarming role of handguns in crime, gender-based violence, and more.

“We are using all tools at our disposal to fight gun violence and will not rest until all Canadians feel safe in their communities.”

Canada has stricter gun laws than the United States, but Canadians can own firearms with a licence.

Under the new rules people can still own and use their registered handguns and sell or transfer them to “exempted individuals and businesses”.

Authorised businesses, such as museums, the movie industry, law enforcement, defence personnel, and other exempted individuals can continue to import and sell handguns to exempted parties.

These exempted individuals include anyone who is already authorised to carry a handgun and people who train, compete or coach in a handgun shooting discipline sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee.

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Any handgun applications submitted before Friday will still be processed, the prime minister’s office said.

Canada’s gun homicide rate is tiny in comparison to that of the United States, but 2020 data showed it is higher than other wealthy countries and has been rising.

Handguns were the most common weapon used in firearm-related violent crimes between 2009 and 2020.

The handgun freeze is part of a broader firearms-control package including the Trudeau government’s Bill C-21 which is currently before the Canadian parliament.

If passed, that would allow for the gun licences of people found to be committing domestic violence or engaged in criminal harassment, such as stalking, automatically and increase maximum sentences for gun smuggling and trafficking from 10 to 14 years.