OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he wants to tackle a surge of gun violence in Canada by targeting criminals who use weapons illegally, rather than supporting an outright handgun ban.
Scheer is to unveil the second part of his plan for improving public safety Tuesday in Delta, B.C.: a policy plank focused entirely on guns.
It is a response to the calls for a ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, and instead proposes to give police more tools and write tougher laws to crack down on illegal gun users in Canada.
Scheer’s gun policy includes seven new policy measures that will target repeat offenders or criminals that help to make illegal guns available on the streets. They include tougher sentences for those who knowingly possess smuggled weapons and cracking down on so-called “straw purchases” in which guns bought by otherwise legal buyers are diverted to criminal markets. New penalties for selling guns to people already prohibited from possessing them are also part of the Conservative plan.
“We need to get guns out of the hands of people who use them to commit crimes, and that’s what this policy will do,” said a senior Conservative party official. “A handgun ban may sound like a good idea, but it will only make criminals out of responsible gun owners while doing nothing to prevent criminals from getting guns.”
Scheer will also vow to create a special task force to try to keep guns from being smuggled in from the United States.
Canada has had a rash of gun killings this year, including a mass shooting on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue in July that killed an 18-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl and injured 13 others.
A shooting this weekend at a community-housing complex in Toronto was the 90th homicide this year in the city, breaking the record for the deadliest year in Toronto since 1991.
Calls for Ottawa to ban handguns and assault weapons have been growing, including from both Montreal and Toronto city councils.
Scheer has taken a strong stance against the push for a handgun ban, saying it would penalize law-abiding gun owners while failing to address the ongoing use and smuggling of illegal guns by criminals and gang members.
Scheer announced the first part of his public safety policy earlier this month, in which he outlined more punitive measures for gang members and organized crime organizations. He also wants to impose tougher jail sentences and limit parole and bail opportunities for gang members who are repeat and violent offenders.
Since 2013, gang-related homicides in Canada’s largest cities have almost doubled, according to Public Safety Canada.
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Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press