A handgun ban in cities proposed by Toronto and Montreal that enjoyed wide support in Vancouver has caused a fire storm in Surrey‘s civic election.
The mayoral candidate of the incumbent Surrey First slate, Tom Gill, voiced his support for the ban, triggering one incumbent city councillor to quit the slate.
“I’m favourable at looking at banning handguns, no question, I’d like to be clear on that,” Gill told CTV News, adding that any ban on long guns is a “separate topic.”
“We want to be bold and make some change and to make change you have to take a bold step,” he said.
But fellow Surrey councillor Dave Woods, a former RCMP officer, said that position was made without consulting him – one reason that Woods is pulling out of Surrey First.
“The problem is gangs, not guns,” said Woods, adding, “I’ve lost confidence in Gill as a potential leader and I would not be voting for him as mayor.”
Woods said he plans to stay in the race, but hasn’t figured out in exactly what capacity now.
Toronto City Council asked the federal government to impose a handgun ban on its city limits in June after a shooting on the Danforth killed two people and injured several others.
Montreal followed suit on Monday, asking for a national ban on handguns and assault rifles.
In Vancouver, mayoral candidates across the spectrum said they supported the move. NPA mayoral candidate Ken Sim told CTV News in a statement he’d work with the RCMP, VPD and federal government “to achieve this goal in a practical and common sense way.”
But the impact in Surrey has been another blow to the Surrey First lineup, which has reigned in a 10-year dynasty that began with Mayor Dianne Watts, but this summer lost Barbara Steele and Bruce Hayne to the startup slate “Surrey Integrity Now.”
Hayne, the mayoral candidate, told CTV News on Tuesday that he supports gun safety, but “the devil is in the details” when it comes to making such a ban work.
Barinder Rasode, who was once a Surrey First councillor before quitting and running for mayor in 2014, said there are signs that the party is in trouble.
“We are seeing a shift in the political climate,” she said. “People are really tired of majority slates.”
Gill says he’s sticking to his guns.
“Surrey First has a new value system and we’re looking at making some significant changes in our community,” he said.
Gun crime is up across the country after a several-year lull, with the proportion of murders across the country rising from about 31 per cent in 2006 to 37 per cent in 2016.
Police have warned that illegal guns that used to come from the United States are now more often coming from a domestic black market.
That can come from what authorities call “straw buyers” who have a legal right to purchase firearms, but then turn over or sell to middlemen who sell the guns to gangsters.
One recent judgement in provincial court details how a Surrey security guard bought 16 semiautomatics between September 2015 and March 2016.
The Maple Ridge gun store found that suspicious and alerted the police, who tracked her and watched her hand four of those guns over to an associate, the judgement says.
Officers seized those guns, and tracked another to “drug residence,” but 11 have yet to be found.
Christina Stover, a single mother, was sentenced to three years in prison, and apologized for what she called a “mistake.”
Her lawyer, Tony Lagemaat, told CTV News that the judge provided Stover with “a fit sentence.”
“Ms. Stover did accepted full responsibility and did the right thing. She did pleas of guilty on all counts,” he said.