Plan makes exceptions for police, collectors
Anne Dawson, CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, December 08, 2005
MONTREAL - Paul Martin will today propose a ban on most handguns in Canada, CanWest News Service has learned.
Sources say the Prime Minister will make the election campaign announcement this morning in Toronto, where deaths due to gun violence have jumped significantly this year.
There will be some exemptions, including maintaining the right for police to carry handguns. The Prime Minister is also expected to announce a significant increase in resources for police to deal with the ban.
The Liberals say the thinking behind this crime strategy is that if no one is allowed to have a handgun in Canada, policing authorities will be in a better position to act on anyone who has a handgun or attempts to transport or sell a handgun.
The announcement will include the banning of all registered handguns in Canada. However, sources say special arrangements will be made for gun collectors.
This crime prevention strategy will be announced as a key plank in the Liberal election campaign today.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister focused on the environment, telling a UN conference in Montreal that human behaviour needs to be changed to combat climate change.
The Conservatives used a stop in Saint John, N.B., to roll out another campaign promise. Leader Stephen Harper targeted small and medium-sized businesses, announcing he would cut their taxes.
He noted that small businesses employ six out of 10 Canadian workers and make up half of the country's economic engine.
NDP leader Jack Layton outlined his plans for national unity yesterday, telling a Montreal audience he has changed positions on an 18-month-old suggestion that the Clarity Act should be scrapped.
"We would not repeal the Clarity Act," Mr. Layton said yesterday "It follows directly from the principles laid out by the Supreme Court, and has been broadly accepted across the spectrum as a basis for proceeding."
The legislation specifies that any vote on Quebec sovereignty must be based on a clear question and obtain a clear majority. The power to decide whether or not those conditions have been met rests with the federal government.
None of the parties has unveiled initiatives on violent crime so far in in the two-week-old election campaign, so the proposal to ban handguns would mark the first time the Liberals set the agenda on a particular issue.
The handgun ban would seem to have similarities with the national firearms registry, a Liberal initiative under former Prime Minister Jean Chretien. The firearms registry is supported by residents and police forces in urban centres, where illegal weapons are a serious concern, but it has been harshly criticized in rural areas and other places where recreational gun use is common. Critics charge that forcing law-abiding citizens to register their hunting rifles does little to remove illegal handguns from urban streets.
And while sources say the Liberals will present the handgun ban as an attempt to stifle the supply of handguns in Canada -- particularly guns brought into the country illegally and those sold on the black market -- critics will say the guns used in most violent crimes are already illegal, so a ban would do little.
Handgun violence has been a particular issue in Toronto this year. Police say downtown and suburban gangs involved in the drug trade are responsible for most of the gun-related deaths, which peaked during the summer when at least one person was shot and killed most weekends. Of Toronto's 70 homicides in 2005, 48 have been committed with guns.
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