Mayors of Montreal, Halifax say they support Miller’s proposal for national ban on handguns

Quebec City—Two big-city mayors have gotten behind Mayor David Miller’s push for a national handgun ban.

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay has sent Miller a letter of support for the ban, and Mayor Peter Kelly of Halifax — who attended the Big City Mayors caucus meeting here yesterday along with Miller and several other Canadian mayors — is also onside.

Miller has launched an online anti-handgun petition on the City of Toronto website and is broadcasting his message on YouTube.

“We’ve had some drive-by shootings,” Kelly said in an interview, adding that a “groundswell” of support is growing for Miller’s proposed ban. Kelly said the Atlantic mayors conference also recently passed a resolution calling for a ban.

Montreal City Councillor Claude Dauphin said Tremblay sent Miller a letter last week indicating support.

The letter reflects on Montreal’s history of mass shootings and says, “We’re 110 per cent in support of Mayor Miller’s initiative,” Dauphin said, referring to the September 2006 shooting at Dawson College in which a young student was slain by a gunman, and the 1989 massacre at Ecole Polytechnique, where a gunman killed 14 women.

Right now the only people legally entitled to own handguns in Canada are police and security officers, target shooters, collectors and Olympic-style athletes.

Miller wants to see what the federal Liberals proposed in the 2005-06 election campaign — a tightening of loopholes so handguns would be banned for collectors, too.

“The facts are very clear, no matter what the gun lobby says — and they are extremely well-organized in this country and fight very aggressively,” Miller said. “But between 30 and 40 per cent of the handguns used in crimes in Toronto come from local owners.

“They’re stolen from them. That’s a huge public safety issue.”

He referred to the seizure by Toronto police yesterday of 125 rifles and handguns from a collector who was charged with storing them unsafely.

“The man had a permit for (125) guns. Think of the public safety threat if one of the criminal gangs found out (the man had them). If they got there before police, all of those guns would have been on the streets and eventually used in crimes,” Miller said.

But Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, also here for the big-city mayors meeting — part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) annual conference — voiced some trepidation about the proposed ban.

“You can ban handguns, but that won’t eliminate guns. People who want to get them will get them,” she said.

Meanwhile, a report that says local municipalities are “subsidizing” federal police enforcement at a cost of more than $500 million a year was released today by the FCM.

The report says that, increasingly, local police have taken on areas traditionally under federal jurisdiction — such as border patrol, cyber crimes, drugs and terrorism — but aren’t being compensated fairly.

The report suggests Ottawa should cover about 10 per cent of the budgets of local police forces. For Toronto, that would amount to about $84 million.