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Larkin, CACP express support and some concern for new handgun legislation

He's concerned that different rules in municipalities will lead to complications
Police Chief Bryan Larkin
KitchenerToday file photo of Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin

The President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and Chief of Waterloo Regional Police Services, has chimed in on the newly tabled handgun legislation by the federal government.

The new legislation would give municipalities the reigns on restricting possession, storage and transportation of handguns. 

It would also introduce tighter restrictions on imports of ammunition and ensure the prohibition of imports, exports, sales and transfers of all replica firearms. Capacity of the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency would be boosted as well.

"In my role as the CACP president, I have been involved in discussions with government in relation to the proposed legislation, and basically all facets of the legislation" said Larkin. "When you look at gun violence in Canada, you know, clear crime stats do indicate that it's increased, it's escalating, and there's a couple of significant concerns. One is around intimate partner violence, the other piece is around self harm, and then of course some of the experiences we're seeing in Waterloo Region and the GTA is the connection and ties to the drug trade."

Larkin said he supports the new legislation, even though Canada has some of the most stringent firearms legislation compared to global partners. 

"If you look at our region, we're two and a half hours away from the US border via Buffalo. More than 70 per cent of handguns used in the commission of offences in Ontario are unlawfully coming through the U.S."

The part that Larkin does not support, however, is the inconsistency of leaving the decision up to municipalities.

"I have significant concerns that it potentially creates a very mismatched approach across our nation," said Larkin. "My preference as the chief of Waterloo Region, as well as the president of the CACP, would have been actually a national approach and a national framework."

He said the lack of a national framework could create enforcement issues when it comes to leaving it in the hands of bylaw officers. Questions of who has the responsibility and who would bear the cost are unanswered.

"I think it's taken a very difficult issue, and put it in the hands of municipalities, which again are very unique, but again, it also doesn't come with any funding: support for enforcement, support for policy development, support for compliancy checks, etcetera. So, it's the one piece of the legislation that I do have concerns [about]."

Larkin also acknowledged the balance that has to be struck is the fact that new bylaws will inevitably target law-abiding citizens. 

His comments came on the same day the CACP released a statement regarding the new legislation. 

"We understand the various positions related to the firearms issue and the challenge of balancing individual rights and privileges with the broader rights and safety of society," said the release in part. "As police leaders, we place a priority on public safety. We place a priority on victimization. We will always speak from that voice."

"Based on a preliminary review of the new firearms legislation, the CACP believes that the proposed changes put forward by the federal government recognize that stopping gun violence requires a whole of society approach including education and prevention to address root causes, and law enforcement to help stop the criminal elements who are perpetrating violence in our communities."

Generally, the statement from the CACP was more restrained on criticisms of the proposed bill, rather focusing on the victories that could be be realized from it. Regina's police chief who co-chairs the Firearms Committee with the CACP also added his concern regarding complications of a city-by-city approach.

Larkin said he's looking forward to seeing more details about the bill in the coming days.

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