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Shooting victim’s dad urges new gun law as grim Montreal anniversary marked

Brian Sweeney’s daughter, 14 victims of École Polytechnique massacre remembered as Senate debates
The father of a woman who was fatally shot in October by her former partner is urging senators to pass a federal gun-control bill without delay. Brian Sweeney, right, father of shooting victim Angie Sweeney, speaks on stage during candlelight vigil, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Robert Davies

The father of a woman who was fatally shot in October by her former partner is urging senators to pass a federal gun-control bill without delay.

In a letter sent this week to members of the upper chamber, Brian Sweeney says the legislation contains crucial measures that would improve the way police deal with domestic violence cases involving firearms.

“Implementing these measures is urgent,” Sweeney says in the letter, made available to The Canadian Press. “The bill is the result of years of advocacy from victims and women’s groups, and women have died while the bill has been debated.”

Sweeney’s daughter Angie was shot when her former partner Bobbie Hallaert broke into her home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., two months ago. Hallaert proceeded to a second home and killed three of his own children and injured another woman, who survived. The gunman then took his own life.

“Angie’s death, like that of all victims, leaves behind a trail of broken hearts and broken lives,” Sweeney says in the letter.

He plans to be in Montreal today to help families and survivors mark the anniversary of the grim day in 1989 when a man with a Ruger Mini-14 killed 14 women at the city’s École Polytechnique.

“The 14 victims and my Angie deserve better than our current laws and procedures,” Sweeney says. “Three innocent children also paid the price of our failed system.”

Police probing the Sault Ste. Marie shootings said late last month they were trying to determine how Hallaert obtained the SKS rifle and .38-calibre revolver seized during their investigation. He did not have a current firearms licence at the time of the shootings.

Sault police have confirmed the offender was involved in intimate partner investigations in the past.

The federal bill would usher in new measures to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, reinforce a freeze on handguns, increase penalties for firearm trafficking and move to curb homemade ghost guns.

The bill also includes a ban on assault-style firearms that fall under a new technical definition. It would apply to such guns designed and manufactured after the bill comes into force.

Gun-control groups such as PolySeSouvient, which includes students and graduates of the Montreal engineering school, want to see the bill become law. Conservative MPs and some gun owners have said the legislation is misguided and penalizes law-abiding Canadians.

Members of a Senate committee have been reviewing the bill clause by clause, but it is expected to return to the full upper chamber soon.

“There is no reasonable justification to delay the adoption and implementation of these measures,” Sweeney says in his letter. “So I am begging you to vote it through as soon as it hits the Senate floor for third reading.”

Sweeney expresses anger in his letter that someone with Hallaert’s history could have access to guns.

“Domestic violence is an epidemic and governments are not doing enough to prevent it,” he writes.

“That’s why I promised Angie that I wouldn’t stop until the laws in this country are strengthened to stop domestic murders. I especially want to get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

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