Tough Gun Control Legislation Introduced In Parliament
TORONTO (AP) _ Canada, already tough on guns, is about to get tougher, with the introduction Tuesday of a bill in Parliament that requires the registration of all firearms and bans many handguns.
The proposed measure includes tough sentences for crimes committed with guns, establishes a licensing and registration system for all firearms, and bans the sale of imported small-caliber pistols.
Critics say the new registration system, which will cost about $60 million to implement, will do little to reduce crime, and predicted widespread noncompliance.
``There is no statistical justification for the registration requirements of the bill,″ said Jack Ramsey, a deputy with the conservative Reform Party. ``As people understand that the registration of firearms is not going to make their homes safer, they are going to realize the uselessness of this legislation,″ he said.
But Justice Minister Allan Rock defended the measure Tuesday, saying: ``There is broad public support for these measures. This legislation will get tough with criminals who use firearms in crime and it will enhance public safety.″
About 1.2 million handguns and restricted weapons are already registered under the current system. The government estimates about 7 million firearms of all types are in Canada, and says it will take about seven years to phase in the proposed new computerized registration system.
Despite opposition to the bill, the governing Liberals’ hefty majority in the House of Commons virtually guarantees it will pass.
Canada has been traumatized about guns since Marc Lepine used a military assault weapon to kill 14 women in Montreal in 1989. Since then, many groups have pushed for stricter controls.
``We are very pleased that the minister has basically stood his ground,″ said Wendy Cukier, president of the Coalition for Gun Control, a group formed in the aftermath of the 1989 shootings. ``I register my car, other people register their dogs,″ she said.
Even some members of Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s Liberal Party caucus oppose the bill and at least one said he would break party ranks and vote against it _ an unusual move that could provoke stiff disciplinary measures, including expulsion from the party.
``I think it is a breach of the fundamental rights of Canadians,″ said Benoit Serre, a Liberal backbencher from thinly populated northern Ontario, who said he would ``most definitely″ vote against it.
The proposed bill imposes:
_ A mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison and a lifetime prohibition against possession of restricted firearms upon conviction of any violent crime with a firearm.
_ Stiff new penalties for illegally importing and selling firearms, and beefed up border control measures.
_ Bans on import and sale of .25-caliber and .32 caliber pistols, as well as handguns with a barrel length of less than 105mm, or 4.14 inches.
_ Creation of a national registration system for all firearms, administered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.