Windsor reacts to 3-year mandatory gun sentence ruling

A lawyer says a court ruling against mandatory minimum sentences could have especially big implications in Windsor.

Lawyer says Americans to be affected, police chief disappointed by ruling

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said he does not know if the government will appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. (Andy Clark/Reuters)

A lawyer says a court ruling against mandatory minimum sentences could have especially big implications in Windsor.

The Ontario Court of Appeal says it's "cruel and unusual punishment" to send some people convicted of gun possession to prison for three years.

Kirk Munroe, a criminal defence lawyer in Windsor, said he and his colleagues run into this type of case now and then.

"It's not unusual to see Americans coming over with loaded handguns," Munroe said. "They're business owners. They've been police officers. They've been military people who have licenses over in Michigan to carry a handgun, forget about it, come over for dinner, and, 'Oh my gosh! They've got a handgun.'

"Welcome to three years in prison."

Still, Munroe hopes the federal government appeals the ruling, so there is clarity on the issue.

The court decision says the law doesn't discriminate, meaning a person keeping a restricted gun with ammunition in their cottage when the license says it should be stored in their home faced the same minimum as a person standing on the street with a gun in their back pocket and the intent to use it.

Dirk Derstine is one of the lawyers who fought the crown on this appeal. He says evidence also shows minimum sentences do not work as a deterrent to crime

"There's a seductive appeal to the idea that all we have to do is ratchet up sentences and these people will quote, unquote, get the message. The difficulty with that it's seductive, but it's also incorrect," Derstine said.

Some agree with minimum sentencing

Back in Windsor, John Elliott works with at-risk youth at the Sandwich Teen Action Centre. He favoured the mandatory sentencing.

"Hey, you do the crime you do the time," he said. "Should a kid have to suffer a sentence like that for a first time mistake? I don't know. But the young people that are using this to do things that they shouldn't, you've got to come down on them hard."

Windsor Police Chief Al Frederick doesn't understand why the court ruled the way it did.

"We reap the benefits of strict laws in regards to all violent crime," he said. "While I think gun violence has probably dipped, it's because of those efforts and because of the efforts of police services."

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said mandatory prison sentences showed Canadians that the rights of criminals wouldn't trump the rights of victims.

He does not say if the government will appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

With files from Genevieve Tomney

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