Waterloo Region, Guelph leaders meeting with federal minister to discuss new firearms legislation

Canada's public safety minister met with mayors from the Waterloo Region and Guelph area to talk about the Trudeau government's new firearm legislation.

The Thursday meeting was part of a series hosted by Minister Bill Blair.

Blair says he was looking to hear from area municipal leaders and shelter workers to discuss how he believes the government's proposed firearm restrictions would make the community safer as well as tackle the increasing issue of intimate partner violence.

"We've listened to those mayors and we've listened to those municipalities and we've said 'If you want to do more, we want to find a way to support you in that,'" Blair said.

The minister highlighted the amendments Bill C-21 would make to Canada's gun laws and adds that the legislation aims to combat illegal ways firearms make their way into communities, like smuggling.

"We recognize that a handgun in a dangerous situation is also a very serious problem in every part of this country, in particular in urban centres and municipalities," said Blair.

The regulations would strictly outline storage of handguns at homes and stores, which the minister says is one part of keeping them inaccessible and addressing the problem of intimate partner violence.

Regional Chair Karen Redman said she's still wary of the details.

"I want greater clarity," she said. "Is that really what the legislation is going to look like? And we all know it's regulations where the real detail is."

Police Chief Bryan Larkin said the meetings will help sort through measures in the government's plans to tackle gun violence in the region.

"It's a step in the right direction and something that myself and other Canadian chiefs are supporting," he said.

Larkin said the border is the greatest cause for concern, adding 70 to 80 per cent of illegal guns in the area are smuggled from the U.S.

Blair said the government has proposed to increase gun smuggling penalties from 10 to 14 years.

Redman said there's also a need for an investment in the community.

"That looks at housing, that looks at social supports, looks at municipalities at the local tier, look at recreation," she said. "We have to find ways where we can give young people what they need so that they feel included in the community and they're not turning to gangs."