Canada's Liberals propose sweeping ban on handguns

Canada's Liberal Leader Paul Martin, in a major policy announcement to campaign for the Jan. 23 federal election, proposed Thursday a sweeping ban on handguns to combat growing gun-related violence in the country's cities.

"Handguns kill people -- that's why they exist, and they're taking too many Canadian lives," said Martin during his "safer communities announcement" at a school near Toronto's violence- plagued Jane and Finch area Thursday morning.

Some details of Martin's proposal include a new 250 officer unit dedicated solely to fighting gun-related crimes, as well as other organized crime and drug trafficking; more officers to combat illegal importation of handguns from the United States and tougher sentences for gun-related crimes.

A handgun registry in Canada already exists and has been active for more than 60 years. But gun-related violence in some major urban centers has been rising alarmingly. In Toronto, gunfire has killed 50 people so far this year.

In Canada, handguns are currently classified as either restricted or prohibited. Canadians can get a handgun license by proving the weapon is part of a collection, in target-shooting competitions, or for target practice.

Observers said Martin's announcement will likely be popular in vote-rich urban centers. But it could anger voters in rural areas, already upset at the

Liberal-created registry for long guns.

Martin's new plan on gun-control is only his second major policy pronouncement since the election campaign started 10 days ago. Mostly boasting of the economic achievement under the Liberals' rule, Martin has been merely reacting to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who has been dominating the election with his policies on various topics ranging from tax cut, health care, same-sex marriage, to cleaning up corruption and stricter anti- drug laws.

On Tuesday, Martin promised that his government would kick in another 6 billion Canadian dollars (5.1 billion US dollars) for child care starting in 2009. In their 2004 election platform, the Liberals promised to spend 5 billion Canadian dollars (4.3 US dollars) over five years. Care and education for pre-school children, as well as health care, has been among the hottest campaign issues in the country in recent years.

Martin announced an election date of Jan. 23 after his government was toppled by a united effort of the Conservatives and two smaller opposition parties on Nov. 28 following a report that said kickbacks from government sponsorship contracts were used to illegally finance some Liberal election campaigns.

Most of the Liberals' policy pronouncements was made weeks and even months before that in an attempt to keep this minority government alive.

Source: Xinhua

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