Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino is not ruling out the use of handgun bans to deal with firearms violence, a tool endorsed by several big-city mayors in Canada.
Firearms legislation tabled on Monday would freeze the import, sale and transfer of handguns, but would not go as far as banning them outright or facilitating bans by other parties such as provinces or municipalities. Bill C-21 would allow existing firearms owners to keep their handguns.
When asked after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday about provincial or municipally invoked bans on handguns, Mr. Mendicino replied: “All options remain on the table.”
He did not elaborate.
Bill C-21, which follows a previous bill with the same name that did not pass before the 2021 federal election was called, would also allow the automatic removal of gun licences from people who have committed domestic violence or engaged in criminal harassment, such as stalking. And it would create a new “red flag” law that would allow courts to require that people considered a danger to themselves or others surrender their firearms to police.
And Mr. Mendicino this week said the government is also committed to introducing a mandatory buyback program for assault-style weapons. He said the details would be announced after consultations with the industry.
But the handgun issue remains a concern, even among supporters of C-21.
Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, a former member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinets, praised the government’s firearms legislation as a “much-needed step towards safer communities for all Canadians,” but called for a handgun ban.
“I am in full support of phasing-out handgun ownership in Alberta, and I am encouraged by our provincial government’s renewed interest in community safety to get this done,” Mr. Sohi said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart offered a succinct view of the issue: “Handguns have no place in cities. A national ban on handguns would make Vancouver safer,” he said in a statement.
Toronto Mayor John Tory and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, responding to the firearms legislation, both called for bans on handguns.
The gun-control group PolySeSouvient said in a statement on Tuesday that a comprehensive federal handgun ban would have been ideal, but there’s no reason provinces can’t build on this federal framework to accelerate the eventual phase-out of handguns.
“They have plenty of authority to further restrict, zone out and even roll out a buy-back program for handguns on their territory, including with federal money if it is offered,” the group said.
Conservative MP Raquel Dancho, the party’s public safety critic, dismissed bans as an ineffective way to deal with firearms.
“Criminals who cause the gun violence in Canada don’t listen to bans,” Ms. Dancho told reporters after question period.
Ms. Dancho said violent crimes involving guns have increased while the Liberals have been in power, but their policy will not curb such violence. She noted that border agents need additional resources to keep guns from the United States out of Canada.
NDP public safety critic Alistair MacGregor noted that the Liberals have said they would work with municipalities and provinces that want to impose a handgun ban.
“Unfortunately, they haven’t done the work to ensure that happens. New Democrats have been calling for this step since 2008, when Jack Layton was leader,” he said in a statement.
He added that if the Liberals are serious about action to address gun violence, New Democrats will work with them to get C-21 to committee so expert testimony can facilitate “necessary improvements” in the legislation.
The subject of handgun bans arose as part of the campaign for Thursday’s Ontario election, when Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said that, if he becomes premier, he would implement a handgun ban within the first year. Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford opposed a handgun ban, preferring an effort to stop the smuggling of illegal weapons from the United States and stricter gun-crimes penalties.
In the 2019 federal election, the Liberals pledged $1-billion to help provinces enact a handgun ban, but have taken a new approach in their current legislation.
Government House Leader Mark Holland said on Tuesday that he expects MPs to start second-reading debate on the firearms legislation by the end of this week.
“This historic bill is a priority for our government, and we are committed to its passage as we work closely with Parliamentarians,” Mark Holland said in a statement.
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