Canada’s public safety minister says tougher gun legislation will be introduced to tackle the rise of straw purchasing and “ghost guns” that end up the hands of gangsters.
Marco Mendicino told Postmedia Wednesday that his government has already introduced several measures to reduce gun violence, but more are in the works.
“It is part of my mandate to introduce new legislation which will specifically tackle those phenomena,” said Mendicino, who met Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer on Tuesday. “We hope to introduce in very short order legislation that will tackle directly straw purchasing; that will tackle directly replicas that that pose a particular risk to law enforcement.”
And he said the upcoming legislation would also “tackle directly the alarming rise of gender-based violence” which has risen about 30 per cent over the last several years and often involves a firearm.
Straw purchasing has been an issue recently in B.C. The process involves criminals recruiting people with clean records to get gun licences, buy firearms, then divert them to gangsters. Ghost guns are unregistered firearms without serial numbers that can be assembled from kits or made by 3D-printers.
Mendicino said he discussed the emerging trends in criminal firearms with the VPD chief this week.
“It was a very productive meeting with chief Palmer who is extremely experienced and a strong ally when it comes to fighting gun violence,” Mendicino said. “We talked about a number of the emerging phenomenon within the broader issue as it relates to gun violence, for example, the advent of ghost-gun and 3D technology.”
Mendicino, a former federal prosecutor, recently visited the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and facilities in Quantico, Virginia, “to see how that technology works and how fast and relatively cheap it is.”
He said he shared with Palmer the federal government’s “three pillar” approach to deal with illegal firearms, including additional law enforcement support at the southern border, a buyback program to get assault-style firearms off the street and additional resources to steer at-risk young people away from gangs.
Last month, his government announced a $250 million building safer communities fund that would pay for programs across the country.
Mendicino said some of that money will be spent in B.C.
“We intend to partner with communities right across the country to create safer and more inclusive spaces for at-risk young people,” he said. “I’m looking forward to making more announcements under that particular funding initiative so that we can prevent gun crime from occurring in the first place by addressing many of the root causes, which lead at-risk individuals to making some bad choices.”
B.C. has seen some charges stayed in some gang and money laundering cases, prompting Attorney General David Eby to call on the federal government to enact legislation that could better target high-level organized crime similar to the U.S. Racketeering Influence and Corruption Act.
Asked about whether Canada needs new RICO-style legislation, Mendicino said that existing Canadian law has the necessary measures in place to deal with organized crime.
“The laws that are on the books are actually sufficiently clear and unambiguous to root out crime — organized crime,” he said. “These are sophisticated prosecutions, there’s no question about it. But the laws are there to clearly delineate that conduct which is illegal and needs to be dealt with.”
A more important issue, Mendicino said, is making sure prosecutions are not impacted by delays in the court system.
“I think the greater challenges…are around making sure that those cases get to trial…and they’re not getting gummed up in the system as a result of backlogs or delay. And it is I think, entirely appropriate that we need to stay very focused on eradicating those backlogs.”
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