'Their hands are tied': Why Sask. municipalities can't ban handguns
SASKATOON -- Saskatchewan municipalities can’t ban handguns, despite new federal legislation promising cities to have control.
New federal gun control legislation allows municipalities to ban handguns.
But in June, Saskatchewan amended provincial rules to block municipalities from restricting firearms.
Felix Hoehn, an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Law, said in this case, provincial legislation trumps federal rules.
“Their hands are tied,” Hoehn said.
“Local governments are creatures of the province. They are created by provincial legislation. It's provincial legislation that tells them exactly what they can or can't do.”
Premier Scott Moe said the province amended its legislation to ensure there is only one set of firearms regulations in Saskatchewan.
In a statement to CTV News, Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said “there’s been no contemplation of enacting a handgun ban.”
Meanwhile, Vancouver’s mayor promptly announced plans to ask city council to use the new powers, should they become law, to implement a handgun ban.
Political analyst Ken Coates said the issue of gun control is mainly an issue in southern Ontario and federal legislation isn’t needed.
“This is very much a disconnect because the issue of gun control is really just an issue in the Greater Toronto Area,” Coates, a public policy professor, said.
“We’re in the middle of such a phenomenally important pandemic ... vaccinations and economic recovery — we have massive issues on the table. This is what you call a distraction.”
Coates said the focus on gun control is likely a political tactic to divide voters.
“I think the Liberal government would really like to get the Conservatives coming out as opposed to gun control, so they can divide,” he said.
While some are questioning whether the new legislation would effectively curb crime, the association representing Saskatchewan police chiefs is giving a nod to the new gun rules.
“We do support this legislative package moving forward,” said Moose Jaw Police Chief Rick Bourassa, who is president of the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police.
Bourassa said any new rules attempting to reduce gun violence is a step in the right direction.
He said he’s awaiting more details about how the legislation would be implemented — specifically the buyback program, where owners of the newly prohibited guns can sell them to Ottawa.
“Our hope would be that there is a process in place that doesn't stretch police resources further than they can be stretched,” he told CTV News.
Saskatchewan has seen an increase in firearm offences, according to Bourassa.
“In terms of replica firearms, those have been a challenge for quite some time. They look so real now that it's really difficult to distinguish,” he said.
“So seeing those being removed from circulation, potentially if the legislation goes ahead, we think will have a significant impact.”