This news article from a Canadian newspaper just in.
OTTAWA (CP) - Prime Minister Paul Martin will venture into a violence-plagued area of Toronto on Thursday to announce a sweeping ban on handguns, The Canadian Press has learned.
Martin was scheduled to visit Toronto's troubled Jane-Finch area to make a "safer communities announcement." Liberal sources have confirmed the announcement includes an "outright" ban on handguns.
However, there will be exceptions for competitive target shooters, gun collectors and peace officers, a Liberal insider said on condition of anonymity. The source would not explain any more details of the policy proposal.
Handguns are already severely restricted in Canada and a handgun registry has been in force for more than 60 years.
But a rash of recent gun deaths in Toronto has prompted Martin to promise to crack down even more. Gunfire was responsible for 50 of the 74 murders so far this year in the city.
The rash of shootings prompted city police to launch a gun amnesty program in November, during which they collected 261 weapons and more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition.
A ban on handguns is likely to be popular in other large urban centres as well, like Montreal and Vancouver, where residents have been disturbed by recent firearms violence.
On Tuesday, Montreal residents marked the 16th anniversary of the massacre at Ecole Polytechnique, where 14 young women were gunned down by a rifle-wielding misogynist.
Windsor MP Joe Comartin, the New Democratic Party's justice critic, said the announcement sounds like "smoke and mirrors."
"Basically, all handguns in Canada are illegal now," said Comartin. "The only people who get permits are those who are using them for recreational purposes or those who need it for their own personal safety and there's not a lot of those that are granted."
He said the announcement sounds like "a political ploy during an election to garner some headlines and make it look like you're actually doing something when, in fact, what you're proposing is pretty meaningless."
Given the number of stolen guns used in crime, Comartin said there had been some discussion earlier this year at the all-party Commons justice committee about tightening regulations governing safe storage and use of handguns. But that is something that falls under provincial jurisdiction.
Comartin said the one thing the federal government could do would be to stop the flow of illegal firearms into Canada from the United States.
It remains to be seen how the ban will go over in rural areas, where the issue is more about rifles. Many Prairie rifle owners have never forgiven the Liberals for creating a registry for long guns.
Created 10 years ago, the registry was supposed to cost a mere $2 million. Instead, its cost has ballooned to more than $1 billion.
The Conservatives, who declined comment on the expected handgun ban Wednesday, have called the program a boondoggle and Auditor General Sheila Fraser has sharply criticized the waste and mismanagment that have pervaded the registry.
Gun owners warned at the time that the registry was the first step toward confiscation of their guns. Martin's announcement may be seen as confirmation of their worst fears.
The Liberals, who desperately need to regain support in Quebec and hang on to their urban base in Ontario, appear to be willing to sacrifice their meagre support in the Prairies in a bid to bolster their central Canadian base.
But the gambit may yet cost Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan her Edmonton seat and make it more difficult for Finance Minister Ralph Goodale to hang on to his somewhat safer Regina riding.
Privately, one Liberal insider admitted the move is aimed at creating a wedge issue that will flush out the Conservatives on the issue of gun control.
"It absolutely is a wedge issue. There's no other way to describe it," the insider said.
"It's about making a very clear delineation between what they (the Conservatives) stand for and what we do. . . . We believe in gun control and they clearly don't."
The Conservatives have called for the long gun registry to be scrapped.
While gun enthusiasts will doubtless be unhappy with the handgun ban, the insider predicted it won't infuriate farmers and hunters, who primarily use rifles and shot guns, the way the long gun registry did.
Currently, handguns in Canada are classified as either restricted or prohibited weapons.
Canadians can receive a licence to own a restricted weapon if they can prove it's part of a gun collection or used for target practice or target-shooting competitions. They can also be granted licences to use the firearm under "limited circumstances," such as in the role of a police officer.
Advocates of gun control were reserving judgement to see exactly what Martin would propose.
Wendy Cukier, who co-founded the Coalition for Gun Control after the Montreal massacre, said the government has yet to live up to previous promises to ban the AR-15 semi-assault rifle and the Ruger Mini-14, the same weapon used in the Polytechnique shootings.
But she said existing laws limiting the use of rifles and shotguns have been successful.
"Overall gun death and injury in Canada is way down," Cukier said. "Where we've actually seen a slight increase is in murders with handguns and so clearly our existing laws are not addressing the handgun problem and something is needed."
The firearms lobby was predictably negative.
"It's going to accomplish nothing," said Wayne Fields of LaSalle, Ont., president of the Law-Abiding Registered Firearms Association. "There's already all types of legislation and illegal use of handguns is out of control."
Fields said the Liberals have long been focusing their energy in the wrong direction.
"They have to concentrate on the illegal drugs and the criminals that are using the firearms - get them off the street. They're not going to get rid of guns - it's impossible."
Fields said while he doesn't think the announcement will do Martin any good on the national stage, he admitted it might get him some votes in Ontario, and particularly in Toronto.
"He's trying to protect his strength here in Ontario against the Conservatives, in particular in Toronto where they're strong. The election is going to be won or lost in Ontario.
"Why the Conservatives haven't made it an (election) issue is beyond me."
He said any legislation to either register or ban guns is "lame-duck legislation . . . because half the gun owners aren't licensed and two-thirds of the guns aren't registered."
Kin Chung, who owns a gun shop in Vancouver, said he opposes any kind of sweeping ban on handguns because legitimate dealers like him would lose up to 80 per cent of their business.
"I'm absolutely not happy," he said.
Chung said a ban would also not be welcome by law-abiding citizens who register their guns as required by law and use them for target shooting, for example.
"Those who buy a gun legitimately, got a licence, go through a safety course, they are not about to commit a crime."
Most guns used by gangs aren't registered because they're often smuggled into Canada to commit violence, Chung said. "They should plug that hole."
He said Ottawa needs to address other issues, such as drugs and gang violence that often lead to shootings.