Montreal adopts motion calling for ban on private ownership of handguns, assault weapons

The Montreal motion demands that no Canadians be allowed to possess a handgun or assault rifle, with the exception of people who work in the military or law enforcement.

Council hopes unanimous vote will force federal government to impose tougher gun laws in Canada

City Councillor Alex Norris presented the motion calling on the federal government to put an end to the private ownership of handguns and assault rifles. (CBC)

In a unanimous vote, Montreal city council adopted a motion Monday calling on the federal government to impose a nationwide ban on the possession of handguns and assault weapons.

"Too often we see assault weapons that were made to kill people in the hands of people who have no business owning such a weapon," said councillor Alex Norris, who is chair of the city's public security committee and who presented the motion.

"To put an end to this, we need bans that are clear and precise to reduce the number of these lethal weapons that are circulating in our society."

Montreal's motion demands that no Canadians be allowed to possess a handgun or assault rifle, with the exception of people who work in the military or law enforcement.

It states that violent gun crime in Canada has risen 33 per cent from 2013 to 2016, and of those incidents, 60 per cent involved a handgun.

It also lists Quebec's mass shootings that were carried out with an assault rifle or handgun: the École polytechnique shooting in 1989, the Concordia University shooting in 1992, the Dawson College shooting in 2006 and the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017.

Montreal's motion calls on Ottawa to strengthen its gun-control bill, C-71, which was tabled in March.

While C-71 includes new measures — including a more rigorous background check system, new stipulations to the way firearms can be transported and mandatory record-keeping for vendors — it does not prohibit private individuals from possessing assault weapons or handguns.

"The federal government will have to define what is an assault weapon and what is a hunting weapon that a private individual can own," Norris said.

Motion gets standing ovation

People in the room who were present for the vote, including survivors from school shootings in Quebec, gave a standing ovation after the motion was adopted.

"We are very happy. It's important. It's been years we are asking for the ban of assault weapons," said Heidi Rathjen, a survivor of the École polytechnique massacre where 14 women were gunned down.

Rathjen is now a co-ordinator of Poly Remembers, a group which includes students, families and victims of the 1989 shooting.
Heidi Rathjen, co-ordinator of Poly Remembers, says Montreal's motion is an important step in the road to tougher gun laws in Canada. (CBC)
"Up until now, the governments have not responded to this request.… For us, Montreal's motion is extremely useful because it helps to channel the existing support in an efficient way."

The City of Montreal's vote comes a few weeks after Toronto city council presented its own motion to combat the rise in gun violence.

Toronto's motion calls for banning the sale of handguns within city limits and nationwide.

The Montreal Police Brotherhood, the union representing the city's police officers, said it approves of the unanimous vote.

"We support initiatives that reduce the flow of firearms in Montreal because they promote public safety," said union president Yves Francoeur.