Tags: Canadian | Leader | Pledges | Ban | All | Handguns

Canadian Leader Pledges to Ban All Handguns

Friday, 09 December 2005 12:00 AM

OTTAWA -- After 12 years in power, Canada's governing Liberal Party pledged Thursday to ban all handguns from Canada's streets, with very few exceptions.

Prime Minister Paul Martin, on the campaign hustings prior to the January 23 general election, made the pledge in Toronto, which has seen a record number of crimes involving handguns this year.

Gunfire has been responsible for 50 of the 74 homicides in Toronto so far this year, an unprecedented number, even for Canada's largest metropolis.

"I've come to the conclusion that significant change is needed," Martin told an election rally. "I've come to the conclusion that we should ban handguns."

Under the current system, handguns are prohibited but people are allowed to possess a restricted firearm for target practice, target shooting competitions, as part of a collection or, in some cases, for employment purposes or to protect life.

Martin said his government, if re-elected, would immediately introduce the handgun ban, offering narrowly defined exemptions for target shooters and allowing collectors time to sell or dispose of their weapons. It was not immediately clear what would happen in the case of those allowed to carry guns for employment or protection.

Early reaction from the two main opposition parties in parliament was muted.

Both Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party, and Jack Layton, leader of the left-wing New Democrats, said they needed more time to study the Martin plan in detail.

But spokesmen for the two parties, briefing reporters on the campaign trails, suggested the Liberal proposals did not meet the root of the problem.

The Conservatives said minimum mandatory prison sentences should be imposed, a longstanding Conservative policy, which Martin is now embracing as part of his new plan.

Both the Conservatives and the New Democrats, rarely united on law and order issues, also complained that the federal government was simply passing the buck Canada's provincial governments.

Although Martin promised to set up a federal framework for banning the possession of all handguns by private individuals - except for those involved in recognized international competitions - the implementation of the new rules would be up to provincial jurisdictions, the equivalent of U.S. state authorities.

Vic Toews, Conservative spokesman on justice and a former provincial attorney-general, said he wanted to see the proposals in detail before commenting fully. But he said the Liberals had already botched a planned registry of rifles and other firearms.

That registry, initially expected to cost no more than $100 million Canadian dollars (US$85 million) had already surpassed the one billion Canadian dollar mark (US$850 million).

The New Democrats supported a part of the Martin plan - to beef up security along the border with the United States to stop the importation of illegal firearms - but the Conservatives claimed that guns smuggled from the US were an insignificant part of the overall problem.

Representatives of the Canadian branch of the U.S.-based National Rifle Association (NRA) could not be contacted late Thursday for comment.

An analyst greeted the Martin announcement with cynicism.

"Most kinds of guns are already illegal," said Tammy Landau, a criminologist at Ryerson University in Toronto. "The concern is with illegal guns and this isn't going to go very far in dealing with that."

And an anti-firearms campaigner in Winnipeg, the Rev. Harry Lehotsky, said the new Martin proposal would make no difference.

"They're illegal anyway," said. "The cops have a million ways, reasons, to take those guns away from these guys already. So it's totally irrelevant."

Toronto police launched a gun amnesty program in November, collecting 261 weapons, including 33 handguns, and more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition.

Copyright 2005

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OTTAWA -- After 12 years in power, Canada's governing Liberal Party pledged Thursday to ban all handguns from Canada's streets, with very few exceptions. Prime Minister Paul Martin, on the campaign hustings prior to the January 23 general election, made the pledge in...
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Friday, 09 December 2005 12:00 AM
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