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This article was published 15/10/2018 (773 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There is strong support among Winnipeggers for a Canadawide handgun ban.
Three-quarters of respondents to a Probe Research poll, which was commissioned by the Free Press and CTV, said "urgent action should be taken on banning handguns in Canada."
Out of those who support a ban, 45 per cent indicated they strongly agreed with the statement. Only 12 per cent of respondents strongly disagreed.
"I’m a little surprised by how high the support is for a blanket handgun ban. Given other research that I’ve seen on this, that’s higher than I might have expected," said Frank Cormier, a University of Manitoba criminologist.
Support was fairly consistent throughout most areas of the city, with the southeast most supportive (81 per cent) and the northeast the least (66 per cent).
The poll showed gender and age differences on the issue. While 83 per cent of women indicated they support a ban, only 66 per cent of men said the same. Support was highest among people aged 55 and up (81 per cent) and lowest among those aged 18 to 34 (67 per cent).
Cormier said recent media coverage of high-profile Canadian gun violence could play into such high support.
"There’s no question that when people have been sensitized to an issue, they are far more likely to support strong action. My suspicion would be that support might decrease over time to some extent," Cormier said.
The results of the Probe poll are fairly consistent with a recent national Nanos Research survey commissioned by CTV, which showed a majority of Canadians support a ban on handguns — exempting only police and security professionals. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents said they would support or somewhat support such a ban.
Tightening gun control has been in the news in recent months since the Danforth Avenue mass shooting in Toronto on July 22. Two people were killed and 13 were injured.
Two days after the shooting, Toronto city council voted overwhelmingly in favour of asking the federal government to issue a municipal handgun ban.
On Aug. 20, Montreal took it a step further, voting unanimously in favour of a Canadawide handgun and assault weapon ban. The federal government confirmed on Aug. 28 it was considering a potential handgun and assault weapon ban.
Last week, Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jay Murray said officers have been busy taking firearms off the streets.
"I stood up on this podium last year, and talked about how (firearm seizures) were numbers we had never seen before. With three months to go (in 2018), we’ll certainly exceed the numbers we saw last year," he said.
In 2017, the police service seized 876 firearms. So far this year, it has seized 905. The figure doesn’t include firearms turned in during gun amnesty month.
"We have seen more illegal guns on the street," Murray said.
A recent Free Press investigative series, "The 411 on 911", analyzed police dispatch logs obtained through a freedom of information request. It revealed that in all but nine days last year, police responded to reports of a gun being seen in the streets of Winnipeg. When reports of shots fired were factored in, there were only four days in 2017 in which the WPS didn’t get a gun call.
While the national crime rate is trending down, violent crime is on an upswing. In 2016, Winnipeg had the second-highest per-capita violent crime rate involving firearms, at a rate double the national average. However, only three per cent of violent crimes involve firearms.
The question for criminologists such as Cormier is how much firearm violence is linked to handguns, and what percentage of those handguns are stolen from legal owners. If the majority of handguns used in crimes originate on the black market, then a crackdown on legal handgun ownership would not have much effect.
Cormier said there isn’t enough data to determine whether a handgun ban would have a significant effect on gun violence in Canada.
"That is the big problem. We don’t have comprehensive, reliable data on handgun violence. Where are people getting these guns and can we expect a domestic handgun ban to have some affect on that?" he said.
"The data are nowhere near complete enough to know if that proposition holds merit for success. We just don’t know. Although, people could intuitively say, ‘It can’t hurt.’ That might be enough for people."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
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