Councillor's proposed handgun ban 'will not change the threat level one iota,' police spokesperson says
Coun. Sherri Rollins called for city-wide handgun ban after fatal shooting at downtown hotel
One day after a triple shooting at a downtown Winnipeg hotel known for drug and gun activity, a city councillor is calling for handguns to be banned in the city.
"Since taking office I've been monitoring events at the Windsor Hotel with great concern particularly over the activities of drugs, gangs and involvement of firearms," Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge – East Fort Garry) wrote in an open letter sent to media outlets on Monday.
"The events on Garry Street this weekend are sad and shocking."
Early Sunday morning police responded to a shooting at the hotel, which has been the scene of several gun- and drug-related incidents in the last two months. Three men were taken to hospital in critical condition after being shot. One of the men — 20-year-old Yassin Abdu Ahmed — later died. The other two were upgraded to stable condition.
No arrests have been made in connection with the shooting, and police have not commented on what type of firearms might have been used.
After the incident, Rollins renewed calls for the federal government to follow through on an election promise to work with provinces and territories to allow municipalities to further restrict or ban handguns.
In November, Premier Brian Pallister said he won't "make policy on the fly," but did not rule out allowing Manitoba municipalities to ban handguns, should they choose to do so.
On Monday, a provincial spokesperson said in a statement that the government "will take the necessary time to evaluate Manitoba's position on this issue," although firearms are regulated by the federal government.
"We continue to support our police agencies across the province as they work to address violent crime and remove illegal firearms from criminals and our streets," the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Mayor Brian Bowman said the mayor has not changed his position on the issue.
"The Mayor supports a ban on handguns but feels a national prohibition would be the most effective way to protect the safety of Canadians," the statement said.
Most seized guns stolen: police
At a news conference Monday morning, Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Const. Rob Carver said a handgun ban in the city wouldn't stop the kind of gun crime police are seeing.
"It won't make any difference whatsoever," said Carver. "When we seize handguns, the handguns are always, almost 100 per cent, in the possession of people who have no legal right to possess them. They're almost always stolen or illegally obtained."
Carver said the gun laws on the books already sufficiently address gun crime, and that a local gun ban wouldn't stop people from buying guns from the U.S.
"It's no different than there being a stolen car in Winnipeg, and somebody saying, 'you know, it should be illegal to bring stolen cars into Winnipeg,'" he said. "People are going to get their hands on handguns. We live next-door to the largest gun market in the entire planet. If you want guns, you're going to be able to get handguns."
Rollins said she understands the police perspective on the ban, but disagrees with the idea that a ban would be entirely ineffective.
"I am one that will say that [if] you eliminate handguns in the city, you eliminate some of the crime from handguns," she said.
"I have a very different job than Const. Carver. He deals every day with downstream impacts [of gun crime]. So my job, day to day, is making sure that I'm doing crime prevention through social development in this city."
Rollins said she had calls from constituents complaining about the Windsor Hotel in the fall, when police made three separate busts there within days. After this weekend's shooting, the councillor called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to enact the legislation he proposed on the campaign trail in September.
"I'd like the federal government to act swiftly on that ban," she said.
Carver said while a municipal ban on handguns might seem like a good idea to people worried about gun violence in the city, it wouldn't actually do anything to eliminate the danger fuelling their concern.
"I guess it might make some people feel good, but it will not change the threat level one iota," he said.
With files from Sean Kavanagh