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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN BC: Surrey Mayor Wants Tougher Sentences For Having Illegal
Title:CN BC: Surrey Mayor Wants Tougher Sentences For Having Illegal
Published On:2012-01-22
Source:Globe and Mail (Canada)
Fetched On:2012-01-25 06:00:47

Concerned by gun crimes in her city and across the country, Surrey
Mayor Dianne Watts has asked Ottawa to impose tougher sentences for
illegal gun possession and to boost programs aimed at stemming the
flow of illegal guns from the United States into Canada.

"I am requesting the Federal Government toughen sentences and increase
mandatory sentences for the illegal possession of a firearm," Ms.
Watts wrote in a January 20 letter to federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

Ms. Watts also called for tougher sentencing for repeat drug
offenders. "I am also advocating for new provisions which stipulate
that prior drug convictions be an aggravating factor resulting in more
severe mandatory sentences."

In the letter, which was also sent to federal Public Safety Minister
Vic Toews and B.C. Attorney-General Shirley Bond, Ms. Watts also calls
on the federal government to step up co-ordination with U.S.
authorities on the guns issue.

"We know the vast majority of guns enter the country through land
border ports, and Surrey has the second-largest border crossing in
Canada," Ms. Watts wrote. "Increasing efforts to prevent gun smuggling
will help reduce death, injury and criminal activity."

Gun and gang violence is an ongoing issue in the Lower Mainland, with
a recent killing putting the issue once again into the spotlight.

Sandip Duhre, 36, of Surrey was shot in a Vancouver hotel restaurant
on January 17, in Vancouver's first homicide of 2012. Police say it
was a targeted, gang-related hit and are investigating whether a
Surrey shooting two days later that left one man dead and another
wounded is related.

"There has to be more severe punishment for the possession of
firearms," Ms. Watts said in a recent interview. "If someone is in
possession of illegal firearms, it's going to be used for a crime
somewhere down the road.

"So there has to be a deterrent for the possession of those illegal firearms."

Mandatory sentences are a controversial law-enforcement tactic, with
some research suggesting they do not result in fewer crimes or serve
as a deterrent.

In 2010, 184 firearms including 109 handguns were seized in the
Pacific Region, including Surrey, according to the Canada Border
Services Agency. The next-highest tally was in the southern Ontario
region, where 171 guns were seized.

Most of the firearms seized by the agency come from the United States
and most of the handguns are seized as a result of U.S. travelers
neglecting to declare their personal firearms, an agency spokeswoman
said in an e-mail.

"CBSA's focus is on the prevention of illegal firearms and improving
the collection, analysis and sharing of intelligence and other
information related to firearms," the spokeswoman said. "We work
closely with other law-enforcement agencies, as well as with
international partners to develop detailed analysis of intelligence
and enforcement actions, in order to develop a better understanding of
the nature of firearms trafficking."

Ms. Watts was first elected as mayor in 2005 after serving nine years
on council and was elected for a third term last year.
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