Pubdate: Fri, 26 Jun 2009
Source: Bedford Sackville Weekly News, The (CN NS)
Contact:  2009 Transcontinental Media Network
Column: Howe Now
Author: Rick Howe


The rash of gunplay our city's been experiencing since last year has
residents on edge while police continue to assure everyone Halifax remains
a safe city. But with bullets flying daytime or nighttime, and in
residential areas, somehow those assurances are not, well, so assuring.

Five separate gun-related incidents over five days earlier this month were
but the latest outbursts. Police say three of those incidents may be
connected to a turf war involving two groups in north-end Halifax.

Halifax North-End Counc. Jerry Blumenthal is more blunt. He says it's a
battle between gangs.

"They'll shoot anyone," he says, worried about the safety of his residents.

Police will admit the criminal element these days appears more ready to
use guns than we've seen in the past.

It has become all too common in the past year to hear about shots fired
into homes, shots fired from moving cars and shots aimed at people walking
along a street. It's happened outside the IWK children's hospital, near
playgrounds and at busy intersections and at all hours of the day.

The CBC recently reported it had compiled some 18 gun-related incidents
just since January, with no arrests made in 11 of the cases.

Where are these guns coming from? And therein lies a major problem: we
really don't know.

Halifax police say that historically, most of the guns they've come across
were weapons stolen from private homes during break-ins. But they admit no
guns have been seized in connection with any recent shootouts, so they
cannot say for certain if that's the case of late.

John Thompson has no such reservations. The researcher says the guns do
not come from home break-and-enters, but are generally smuggled into
Canada from the United States. Thompson's Toronto-based McKenzie Institute
has a particular interest in violent crimes and issued a report last year
suggesting upward of 90 per cent of guns used in crimes in Canada came
from south of the border.

The problem, he says, is that no one knows for sure. Thompson says there's
no central data bank compiling the illegal use of guns. The federal
government's gun registry keeps tabs on legal guns, but there's no such
thing for illegal guns.

That's why Thompson doubts the claim made by Halifax police about guns
stolen from private collections.

"Whenever someone gives you statistics or information, they're either
making it up or basing it loosely on their own personal experience," he
told me. "I would really tend to think Halifax's problem is similar to gun
problems in other Canadian cities; most are smuggled in."

Thompson points out handguns are the popular weapons of choice for most
law-breakers, and they've been banned in Canada now for more than a

Most private collections, he claims, do not have Glocks or other 9-mm
handguns, the favourite weapons of today's young criminals. He hasn't seen
many criminals using German Lugars, brought back to Canada by soldiers
returning home from the Second World War.

He also suggests Nova Scotia is a prime landing point for smuggled guns
because of our history with rum running and drug smuggling.

"If you have a pipeline for contraband of any kind, especially narcotics
and cigarettes, you'll find guns. If the crooks are already smuggling in
stuff, it doesn't make a difference to bring in some firearms as well.

Police Chief Frank Beazley says his biggest fear about the city's gunplay
is that someone innocent is going to get hurt. He says he has thrown more
officers into the investigations. Let's hope police can end this gun
madness before his fear becomes a fact.
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