Pubdate: Sun, 22 Jan 2012
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2012 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Wendy Stueck


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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