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Mayor reiterates support for handgun ban after string of DTES shootings
The mayor of Vancouver is once again voicing his support for a handgun ban following a rash of gun violence in the city's Downtown Eastside.
Kennedy Stewart said the three shootings committed in the neighbourhood from Sunday afternoon to Monday morning are very concerning to officials, and that he believes a ban on handguns would make the city safer.
"I'm fully in favour of that," Stewart said. "Not having handguns in Vancouver would be a good thing."
The mayor noted the issue has already been raised in the federal election campaign, with Justin Trudeau's Liberals promising to ban assault rifles nationwide and work with provinces to give municipalities the power to ban handguns as well.
"There's no place for handguns in cities, there's no place for assault weapons in cities. Cities are dangerous enough places, as we're seeing here," Stewart said.
So far this year, police have seized more than 453 firearms from four different districts in the city – more than one gun per day.
Almost half of those were taken from the area that includes Oppenheimer Park and the Downtown Eastside.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Stewart also stressed the need to clean out the encampment at Oppenheimer, saying the park has been taking up an unsustainable amount of police resources.
"We have a fantastic police force here that's doing everything they can, but unfortunately the situation in Oppenheimer Park is drawing resources out of the communities, taking officers out of their regular patrols, taking them out of the (single room occupancy hotels) and moving them into the park," he said.
The Vancouver Police Department supports a court injunction that would allow officials to clear out the park. The city's park board has jurisdiction over Oppenheimer, however, and has been hesitant to do anything heavy handed.
Jeremy Hunka of the Union Gospel Mission cautioned that forcing residents to leave won't alleviate the area's problems.
"Moving people around without giving them the supports they need won't solve the problem," Hunka said, adding that "the vast majority of people here are worried about their safety and trying to get away from these types of violent episodes."
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Allison Hurst