Letting cities ban handguns an 'excellent' 1st step, councillor says

Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King proposed a ban on handguns in Ottawa this summer. He's now applauding Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's election pledge to give municipalities the power to do exactly that.

'It's necessary for us to have more tools,' says Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King

Coun. Rawlson King supports Justin Trudeau's campaign promise but also says investments need to be made in initiatives like neighbourhood policing and youth gang prevention programs. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

An Ottawa city councillor who's pushed for a handgun ban in the nation's capital is applauding Justin Trudeau's campaign pledge to give municipalities the power to do just that.

The Liberal leader announced his gun control policy on Friday in Toronto, not far from the site of a deadly gun rampage last summer that killed two people and injured 13 others.

If re-elected, Trudeau promised to enact a national ban on semi-automatic assault weapons and to work with provinces and territories to give municipalities the ability to restrict or ban handguns.

The NDP has called for cities to have that power as well, while the Greens want to ban handguns altogether. The Conservatives and People's Party are against a handgun ban.

"I think [new powers for cities are] an excellent first step because we do need tougher gun control in our cities," said Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King on Sunday.

King proposed a motion to ban handguns following the shooting death of Markland Campbell in the ByWard Market on June 7.

His motion was referred to the referred to the Ottawa Police Services Board, which has been tasked with examining what's happening in other jurisdictions to curb gun violence and making appropriate recommendations.

"It's necessary for us to have more tools ... in our toolbox to really restrict or prohibit handguns within city limits," King said.

"Because we know that if we reduce the number of guns in our cities, we will have less incidents of gun violence."

Seized firearms on display at Ottawa police headquarters in 2017. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Let the experts weigh in, says mayor

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said he appreciates Trudeau's plan to empower municipalities, but he'd like to consult with new police chief Peter Sloly before taking any meaningful steps toward banning or restricting handguns in the capital.

"I don't have that expertise," he said.

"What I would do first and foremost is seek the advice of our new police chief to see if a ban, or any type of activity involving handguns, is going to make good sense from a public safety point of view." 

Watson said Sloly spent close to 30 years with the Toronto Police Service and his experience in that city is invaluable.

"They've suffered from some terrible shootings this year and last year," he said.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he'd like to consult with Ottawa's new police chief before taking any steps toward introducing a handgun ban. (Idil Mussa/CBC)

Gun ban 'nonsense,' says firearm law expert

Ottawa-based criminal defence lawyer and firearms law expert Solomon Friedman, however, said banning handguns would only hurt law-abiding owners.

"It's nonsense," Friedman said. "The only individuals that will be affected by this ban are the ones who are not the cause of gun violence in urban areas."

Friedman said the criminals behind gun violence in Ottawa are not going through the proper channels get their weapons.

"[These are] people who would never qualify to own [handguns] legally. They're either prohibited from possessing firearms by the court or otherwise wouldn't qualify for a license," he said.

"And the guns they use are almost exclusively smuggled into this country illegally from the United States." 

Solomon Friedman, an Ottawa criminal defence lawyer, says banning handguns is not the solution to reducing gun violence in Ottawa. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Friedman said instead governments should focus on addressing the root causes of violence, rather than issuing a blanket ban on handguns.

"To tackle a problem like gun violence, look at the core causes of crime: poverty, inequality, mental health and addiction," he said. "It's not a sexy campaign slogan, but in order to meaningfully tackle crime you have to look at the core causes."

King acknowledged that banning handguns alone is not the solution.

"We also need to look at the social investments that are necessary in marginalized neighbourhoods to make sure that youth that are vulnerable ... are not left behind," he said.

"And we also have to look at the neighborhood policing component and ensuring that we have policing that is proactive rather than reactive."

With files from Kathleen Harris


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