'Their entire purpose is to kill': Vancouver candidates support handgun ban
Published Tuesday, August 21, 2018 7:08PM PDT
The call for a ban on handguns that began in Toronto last month and was echoed in Montreal Monday enjoys support among the majority of mayoral candidates in Vancouver.
Independent mayoral candidate Shauna Sylvester told CTV News a surge in gun-related violence in Metro Vancouver has her firmly believing that assault rifles and handguns have no place on city streets.
“Handguns and assault rifles do not belong in our city. Their entire purpose is to kill. Why would any person living in the city need to have them?” she asked.
Sylvester said she has had a hunting licence and doesn’t think that long guns deserve the same scrutiny. She said she would also seek to ban ammunition sales in city limits.
“Banning handguns and assault rifles needs a regional approach,” she said, adding she would consult with the Vancouver police chief and the federal government – which is the level of government that has the power to create such a ban.
Sylvester was one of several Vancouver candidates who responded positively to questions sent by CTV News. YES Vancouver’s Hector Bremner, Vision Vancouver’s Ian Campbell, independent candidate Kennedy Stewart also said they supported the move, while the Non-Partisan Association’s Ken Sim and Coalition Vancouver’s Wai Young so far haven’t responded.
Statistics Canada data show that guns are making up a larger proportion of murders, rising from 31 per cent in 2006 to 37 per cent in 2016.
And the province’s gang crime unit has seen that gang murders, which largely involve guns, are returning to 2009 numbers after a recent lull. In 2009, there were 36 gang-related homicides, to a low of eight in 2014, and back up to 32 confirmed and suspected gang homicides in 2017.
In Surrey, gun violence was cemented as an election issue when surveillance video showed the brazen daylight shooting of an innocent man, Paul Bennett, in June.
Surrey councillor and mayoral candidate Bruce Hayne said he supported improving background checks, and increasing punishments for people found owning illegal guns.
“I’m willing to consider the proposal, but the devil is in the details,” he said. “I’m not sure how enforceable the proposal is, and what kind of resources and logistics you’d need.”
Instead of banning handguns it may make more sense to require them to be stored correctly where they are used, such as at a target range, he said.
In Toronto, a shooting on the Danforth that killed two people and injured several others prompted city council to pass a motion looking for a citywide handgun ban.
On Monday, Montreal’s city council passed a motion looking for a national ban on handguns and assault rifles.
Vision Vancouver candidate Ian Campbell said as mayor he would work with law enforcement and the federal government to make a handgun ban that worked.
“I’m a responsible gun owner. I don’t have restricted weapons, I have hunting rifles. I’ve hunted my whole life and continue to hunt. I believe in having stringent laws that really limit the ability for people to acquire and possess firearms. Any handguns I don’t see the need for citizens who aren’t in law enforcement to have such a need for such weapons,” he said.
Independent candidate Kennedy Stewart, who was an NDP MP, said he has a restricted firearms licence. “My grandfather was a gunsmith so I am familiar with guns, understand their value in rural areas, but know from my own experience handguns have no place in the city.”
And YES Vancouver’s Hector Bremner said, “While bad guys use black market guns, those guns are often stolen or traded from legal owners. We’ve seen what inaction on this looks like down south. We should learn and act now.”
The provincial government promised a new gun trafficking unit that would operate out of the province’s anti-gang unit, the CFSEU. A spokesperson said the unit is up and running but not yet fully staffed.
“That said the team is very active in investigations and the successful seizure of firearms,” said Sgt. Brenda Winpenny, though she said she could not provide specific numbers seized until charges are laid.
Former B.C. solicitor general Kash Heed said he welcomed any new ideas on the file because initiatives going back to 2009 hadn’t significantly changed gun homicide rates.
“For years the provincial government and federal government has failed. We’ve got to try something else,” Heed said, adding that while it used to be the case that illegal guns were largely imported from the United States, now more guns are being bought on the local black market.
“We know that criminals have easy access. Within a couple hours you could purchase a handgun and use it in a violent fashion in Vancouver. That’s how easy it is to purchase,” he said.
Ultimately the federal government has jurisdiction over whether a handgun ban could be enacted. The federal Liberals have been pushing through Bill C-71 that provides for restrictions including tougher background checks.
“We will not bring back a long gun registry. That will not happen under this government,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday. “We’re interested in hearing from citizens on what next steps we can take.”