Interior mayors not happy with feds handgun proposal | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Interior mayors not happy with feds handgun proposal

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
February 18, 2021 - 6:30 AM

A potential move by the federal government to leave municipalities to decide on whether to ban handguns is not sitting well with the mayors of the Thompson–Okanagan's two biggest cities.

The Trudeau government tabled its new gun legislation yesterday, Feb. 16, and along with a proposed buyback scheme for recently banned firearms and tougher jail sentences for weapons offences, the Bill also proposes that local governments make the decision on whether or not to outlaw handguns.

"I think it's laudable (the federal government) wants to control access to assault weapons in Canada," Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian told "But I am concerned about allowing municipalities to pass bylaws restricting handguns."

City of Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran was also on the same page.

"I think it’s something the federal government should have taken action on instead of downloading it to the municipalities," Basran said.

Both mayors said because the proposal was so new, neither had discussed it in any formal or informal setting.

"Quite frankly this is something that hasn't come up in conversations with council, (the Thompson-Nicola Regional District), nor constituents,” Mayor Christian said.

The Kamloops and Kelowna mayors' take on the proposed legislation sits in contrast with that of their counterparts in the Lower Mainland.

Both the mayors of Vancouver and Surrey have said they will ask their councils to implement a handgun ban if the newly tabled legislation is passed.

While the mayors in Kamloops and Kelowna weren't pleased the federal government may pass the buck on to them, Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming seemed reluctant to even acknowledge the fact.

Cumming refused to discuss the proposed legislation saying it would be a decision for council.

The Vernon mayor also refused to give any opinion on whether the City of Vernon should ban handguns.

"After its legislation, I will give it some thought, because it's not legislation yet," he said.

The federal government's proposed amendments to Bill C-21 follows a move in May 2020 that banned a variety of firearms. The ban prohibited more than 1,500 models and variants of assault-style firearms and gave registered owners of the weapons a two-year amnesty. Among many things, the new legislation proposes a voluntary buy-back scheme but doesn't give details of costs.

While most of the amendments to the Bill are left for Ottawa to decide, the issue of handguns is proposed to be dealt with by municipal bylaws.

Mayor Christian pointed out that the federal government's move could make any ban complicated.

"The difficulty in Kamloops would be if we decided to add bylaws restricting handgun usage, other municipalities might not, especially more rural communities," he said. "This would leave a patchwork of regulations."

Kamloops has seen an uptick in gun violence in the city recently which the RCMP blame on low-end drug dealers and debt collectors.

On Feb. 15 a man in his 20s was shot dead in a Kamloops hotel room in what the RCMP said was an "act of violence" related to the low-level drug trade.

One day later, a man robbed a bank using a handgun in the Sahali neighbourhood of Kamloops.

"If you want to talk about what's fuelling crime in the city, it's the drug trade and gangs and organized crime associated with it," Christian said. "I've spoken to (RCMP) Supt. (Syd) Lecky about this and most crime involving firearms in Kamloops involves stolen guns."

And it’s not just the Interior's biggest cities that experience crime that involves handguns.

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP arrested a 41-year-old Penticton man Feb. 17 in relation to a stolen truck and discovered a 9mm handgun under the passenger seat.

According to a 2018 Federal Government report, it's estimated there are roughly 900,000 handguns in Canada. The report also states that most gun crimes are not committed with legally-owned firearms.

If the amendments to Bill C-21 do pass and local governments decide on banning handguns, those who use handguns for target shooting will be greatly affected.

Oceola Fish and Game Club president Nick Kozub said around 60 to 70 per cent of the club’s 1,000 or more members practice target shooting.

Unsurprisingly, Kozub is not in favour of a handgun ban.

"It's not going to stop crime,” he said. “I own handguns, and I follow the rules to a T. Those firearms go from my house to the shooting range and then home again, (a ban) is not going to solve a lot of the issues out there."

The president of the Lake Country-based club said if a handgun ban does come into place, the club would lose a big percentage of its members.

And Kozub isn’t the only one who isn’t in favour of the proposed amendments.

Both the gun control lobby and firearms advocates aren’t happy with the Bill for opposite reasons.

Gun control organization PolySeSouvient called the Trudeau government’s decision to make a buyback for prohibited assault weapons voluntary a “total betrayal.”

“Without a mandatory buyback program, tens of thousands of fully functional assault weapons will remain in circulation for decades to come,” PolySeSouvient said in a media release.

The Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights describes the Bill as “a mess.”

The firearm rights group recently lost a legal challenge against the federal government which it launched after the firearms bans in May 2020.

In the Feb. 9 decision, Federal Court of Canada associate Chief Justice Jocelyne Gagné ruled that firearms owners had not been caused "irreparable harm" by the loss of specific firearms for hunting or shooting.

"Other firearms exist and, in fact, Canadians wishing to engage in these activities can choose from a large range of non-restricted firearms that may reasonably be used for that purpose," the decision reads.

To read the proposed amendments to Bill C-21 go here.

- With files from Rob Munro and Levi Landry.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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