By Amarjeet Sohi, MP for Edmonton Millwoods
Edmontonians are privileged to live in a diverse, inclusive, and generally safe city. Unfortunately, like many other large cities across Canada, homicides, gun crime and gang activity have all been steadily increasing.
Last summer, Edmonton police reported that the use of firearms was up across the city, especially handguns. An increasing number of homicides involve guns, with many of these incidents tied to drug and gang-related crimes. The pattern is clear, and worrying. Illegal handguns and assault weapons are a threat to public safety and we need to get them off our streets.
Our government is committed to improving the safety and security of our communities and addressing the criminal actions that threaten them. We need to catch those committing these violent crimes, but we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. We all need to work together to tackle these challenges and to implement solutions.
Recently, my colleague Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety,introduced Bill C-71. This legislation will strengthen Canada’s gun lawsin a common-sense, focused and effective way that prioritizes public safety while respecting law-abiding firearms owners. It will help keep communities across Canada, including Edmonton, safer from the threat of illegal handguns and assault weapons.
The bill is focused on ensuring safer transport of handguns, more rigorous background checks, and on keeping military-style assault weapons off our streets. It will make sure only people who have passed a firearms safety training and hold a valid license can legally own a gun. It will also put technical decision-making about firearms classification back in the hands of law-enforcement experts, undoing the former government’s decision to give itself the power to overrule the RCMP.
To be clear, we are not bringing back, nor will we ever bring back, the federal long-gun registry. The rules for transport of long guns – shotguns and hunting rifles – will not change.
We know that legislation alone is not enough. That’s why last month our government hosted a national Summit on Gun and Gang Violence to help inform the way forward. Through the government’s Initiative to Take Action Against Guns and Gangs new funding will support community-level prevention and enforcement efforts, build and leverage expertise and resources related to the illegal trafficking of firearms, and invest in border security to stop the flow of illicit goods including guns and drugs. We will also support provinces, territories, municipalities, communities, and law enforcement in local initiatives to combat illegal gangs and gun crime.
Gun and gang violence is not a problem that those of us who are fortunate enough not to experience it in our daily lives can ignore. We must face the reality that gangs can, and do, flourish virtually anywhere people live, including right here in our community.
The steps our government is taking will build on our collective efforts to better tackle this problem and improve the safety of our communities.
There is an urgent need to act and we all have a role to play. The government will be looking for best practices and the most practical solutions. Edmonton can be a leader in this national conversation and I look forward to working with our community, especially those affected by this horrific violence, to learn from each other and find solutions together.