Ottawa looks to provinces to impose bans on handguns

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OTTAWA — The federal government says it will introduce a mandatory assault weapon buyback, an expanded list of banned “assault-style” firearms, and give provinces the power to ban handguns after unsuccessful attempts to hand that power over to cities .

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And it is calling on provinces like Ontario to come to the table.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino acknowledged Wednesday that Premier Doug Ford has resisted calls by cities like Toronto to ban handguns.

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“My message is, let’s work together. Let’s find ways to get handcuffs and other guns out of the streets,” Mendicino said.

“This is a government that is ready to take necessary steps. We’ve already put some additional restrictions and restrictions on assault-style guns. We banned 1,500 of them and we are ready to do more. We need to do more.”

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The government’s throne speech on Wednesday said gun violence is on the rise in “many of our big cities” and promised renewed action.

But the Liberal government would not propose a national handgun ban, instead pledging to “move forward with any province or territory that seeks to ban handguns.”

Mendicino said he was ready to work with all levels of government to make this happen.

“My door is open. If the government of Quebec wants to work with the federal government to take extra tough action against taking guns out of our communities, we will be there.

The problem, says gun control advocate Heidi Rathzen, is that no province has sought the power to ban handguns, and many oppose the ban.

Even after the recent shootings in Montreal, Quebec Premier François Legault is unclear about whether he will ban the handgun, said Rathjen, founder of the Paulie Remembers group.

He said cities facing gun violence want a national ban, not a province-by-province approach.

Rathjen was among the students who survived the 1989 Polytechnic shooting in Montreal. She was in a nearby study room when Mark Lepin opened fire there, killing 14 women.

“Refraining from wanting to work with any province that wants to take handguns off the streets” is basically the federal government saying it has no intention to counter the proliferation of legal handguns and to do the heavy lifting for the provinces. Despite the fact that not a single provincial government has shown any interest in doing so,” Rathgen said.

“From our point of view, the emphasis on pursuing a local/provincial approach virtually guarantees that nothing will happen.”

A senior federal government official admitted a previous proposal to power municipalities—which are under the jurisdiction of the provinces—to ban handguns had not worked.

Mendicino insisted he was ready to talk to all levels of government.

However, a spokeswoman for Ontario Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones said she recently met with Mendicino and is committed to working with Ottawa to “make further investments and developments when it comes to tackling gun and gang violence.” Tools for enforcement and prosecution, as well as shared priorities for “other, tailored legislative reform.”

But Stephen Warner clarified that the province of Ontario is not looking at a handgun ban, and said the Progressive Conservative government’s focus is “on action that makes a real difference in reducing gun and gang violence”.

“The figures are clear, 80 percent of guns used in crime are obtained using illegal means — including from across the border — and half of gun-related deaths in Ontario were gang-related,” Warner said. he said.

Mendicino, a former federal crown prosecutor, said he raised the issue of more joint cooperation with the United States to combat gun trafficking.

The Liberal Electoral Forum made several other promises to toughen gun-control laws, including making it mandatory for owners of banned assault weapons “to either sell firearms back to the government for destruction and fair compensation, or to give it back.” It has been completely and permanently disabled in government spending.”

The latter measure was not explicitly included in the throne speech, but the senior federal official told the Star whether and how to do so — and how much it would cost — is a “live discussion” within the government.

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter who covers federal politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @tondamacc
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