Montreal mayor calls on Ottawa, Quebec to help fight gun violence after teen's death

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Montreal's mayor is calling on Ottawa to take stronger action on banning handguns after a 15-year-old girl died in a drive-by shooting in the city on Sunday.

Valerie Plante told the city's executive committee on Wednesday that cities alone cannot bear the responsibility of fighting rising gun violence and illegal weapons trafficking.

Plante asked Ottawa to take action to limit the use and sale of handguns in the same way it did for assault weapons and to help better control the movement of firearms.

"With assault weapons, we’re happy that the federal government took their responsibilities, but we ask that it be done also for handguns, because it’s a scourge right now," she said.

The federal government last year banned some 1,500 models of assault-style weapons, meaning they can no longer be legally used, sold or imported.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also promised to move ahead with legislation letting municipalities ban handguns. But Plante said it makes more sense for the federal government, rather than cities, to take the lead on controlling weapons, since they can easily be moved from one jurisdiction to another.

"It's not normal that it’s just cities that legislate one after the other, because guns move around," she said.

Plante said the shooting death of 15-year-old Meriem Boundaoui has highlighted the issue of gun violence in Montreal, which has been rising in recent months.

The teen was sitting in a car with another person, talking to a group of people on the sidewalk, when another car drove by and someone opened fire, striking her fatally.

Montreal police say that in 2019-2020, the last year for which statistics are available, crimes involving guns rose about 10 per cent from the previous year, and they say the number of gun crimes has remained high in recent weeks.

Plante said the city and its police force are taking action with increased patrols, a new 30-officer unit dedicated to stopping arms trafficking and more funding for community organizations that work with at-risk youth.

Plante is also asking the Quebec government for more money for mixed patrols, which partner police officers with social workers to respond to calls.

Speaking in Quebec City, Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault said the situation in Montreal was "worrying," especially in the city's north end.

She noted that the province announced $65 million in funding to fight gun violence last fall, including $5 million specifically for the Montreal police.

She said she was also in regular discussion with local officials regarding the need to tackle the underlying social causes of gun crime with the help of community and educational organizations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2021.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press