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Trudeau’s plan to let cities ban handguns a good first step, says Vancouver mayor

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says if the federal and provincial governments don’t ban handguns, he’s happy to do it at the local level.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced last week that a re-elected Liberal government would ban semi-automatic assault weapons and work with the provinces and territories to allow municipal governments to restrict or ban handguns.

Stewart is one of several Canadian mayors calling for a federal handgun ban. But he told As It Happens host Carol Off that Trudeau’s announcement is a step in the right direction. Here is part of their conversation.

What do you think a ban on handguns would accomplish?

Handguns have no place in our city and I think a ban on handguns would give us a tool to make it a safer place. So when I heard that this was surfacing as an issue in the federal election, I thought I just wanted to voice my support for moving toward this.

But your own police chief, Adam Palmer, says he doesn’t need these regulations; he’s got what he needs to fight handguns. What do you say to Chief Palmer?

He’s our local police chief, but also the head of the [Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police], so there’s going to be different opinions in that body.

However, I think that, you know, saying that you want to ban is one thing, but then how do you move forward with it? And that would take a larger discussion post-election. The key would be that the federal players, the government, would be moving us in this direction, and the details we can sort of after.

But what do you know about handguns that your police chief doesn’t know? I mean, he’s saying that basically he has all the regulations he needs, that they’re already illegal, the ones that are being used, and why make a law against something that is already illegal?

Like I said, I think that any tool that we can have to move forward to make this happen is important. And I actually do know a bit about guns. I mean, my grandfather was a gunsmith. And, you know, I myself have a gun license. So I know how guns work, and I know that they don’t have any place in cities, and especially handguns.

Handguns are extremely dangerous. And if we can get the ball rolling here in Vancouver, perhaps we can move towards a national ban. And I think that would be much better.

How would a ban on handguns work in Vancouver? Just describe it. I know it’s preliminary, you just want to get things going, but what are you envisioning?

There’s all kinds of ways to do this. I mean, there could be changes to the Criminal Code that give local police more ability to, you know, to seize weapons or to, you know, have different sentencing suggestions for those who are caught with handguns. There are different kinds of ways of permitting local stores and those that are selling firearms.

There is a whole suite of policies that could be considered. My understanding is the federal Liberal Party said they would work with the provinces and territories to give municipalities the ability to further restrict or ban handguns. So this would be something that we’d have to talk about after the election.

Getting a commitment beforehand is the way elections work. You get a mandate to move forward.

We heard from Justin Trudeau, who said he won’t impose a national handgun ban, something that many mayors, many people wanted to see happen. Do you think there should be a Canada-wide ban?

I don’t think handguns have any place in a city. Occasionally, you might need a handgun, if you’re way out in the woods for various reasons. But they don’t have any place in the city.

If everybody knew there were no handguns in cities, then I think people would feel a lot safer and then, you know, you’d reduce the overall violent crime rate.

Toronto has seen a lot of gun violence, handgun violence, even recently. We heard from Mayor John Tory of Toronto, who [told the Globe and Mail] he wants to see more statistics. He wants to see the data that show where the guns are coming from, how many are here. Do you think there’s a place for waiting to find how exactly to, sort of, quantify the problem with handguns that you might have in Vancouver?

Sure, I think that more data is a good thing, but more data, in the end, doesn’t get handguns off the street. It would only be new legislation.

At the same time, the people who are the problem are, as the police point out, quite often those who don’t have legal guns. That the weapons that they seize in crime and in shootouts are illegal and quite often coming from the United States. So what is accomplished if a municipality has a ban, as Mr. Trudeau is suggesting that you might be able to do? What’s to stop the guns just coming in from other cities, from other territories, or from the United States, which is close to you?

A handgun ban would be a good start, but there could also be different sentencing for gun crimes as well.

So I don’t think this is seen in isolation, and that’s where I agree with Mayor Tory from Toronto that the data would help us, you know, understand this situation and, you know, what policies work best.

However, I think that in the end, the outcome would be the fewer handguns in cities, the safer they are.

We’re an increasingly urbanized nation and more and more people are living in less and less space and we want that space to be as safe as possible, and reducing gun crime is one way to do that.

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