Mayor John Tory is urging Torontonians to fill out a federal questionnaire that seeks Canadians’ input about a potential handgun and assault weapons ban.
This push comes with one day left before the survey’s deadline and during a particularly violent year for the city.
“I think it’s a really important priority for us to register our views about the need to have stronger and stricter gun controls, including, I believe, a handgun ban,” Tory said at a Sick Kids charity event Friday.
The questionnaire put out by Public Safety Canada in October, asks questions surrounding whether more should be done to limit handguns and assault weapons access, where the government should focus its efforts to limit handguns and what kinds of crimes involving guns should the government focus on. The questionnaire, on the Public Safety Canada website, is set to close to submissions Saturday night.
Tory said a handgun ban would reduce the supply of illegal handguns and “thereby reduce gun violence.”
“Why do you need a handgun if you live in a city like Toronto?” he asked. “I don’t think you do.”
Calls for banning restricted weapons come after there have been 88 homicides so far — one away from the 1991 record of 89 homicides. Since the beginning of 2018 Toronto has seen 352 shootings, with 45 deaths, according to Toronto police.
After the Danforth shooting, in which two people were killed and 13 others injured, city council voted 41 to 4 to request the federal and provincial governments ban the sale of handguns and ammunition in the city’s boundaries.
Tory said there’s a “real” problem with the supply of handguns on city streets, adding that people can legally buy a handgun and then illegally traffic them to criminals.
In a debate on July 24, Police Chief Mark Saunders said 50 per cent of firearms used for crimes were lawfully obtained within the country and then, typically, resold.
“I think we got to do everything we can to deal with the ones that are being Canadian-sourced and stop that flow of guns into the hands of those criminals,” Tory said.
Blair Hagen, vice-president of the National Firearms Association, said it’s “offensive” that a “small, but vocal minority,” are demanding a ban on assault weapons and handguns.
“We’re talking about people who comply with the laws in obtaining, owning and purchasing these firearms,” he said. “They did everything that was required of them by law and now apparently, some segments of society want to use that very law to take their property and rights away.”
Instead, Hagen said, the government should focus on the misuse and criminal demand for firearms.
In Canada, to own a handgun, which is considered a restricted firearm, a person has to obtain a valid Possession and Acquisition Licence, take a safety course and get authorization from the Chief Firearms Officers to transport the weapon.
On top of that, handguns can only be used by collectors, for employment or for target shooting practice and competitions.
The federal government estimates there are 900,000 guns registered to individuals in the country, mainly used for sport shooting or collecting.
In 2014, while campaigning for mayor, Tory said a gun ban would be an “empty gesture,” as they are strictly regulated by Ottawa and “gang members don’t obey the law.”
On Thursday, Supt. Ron Taverner of 23 Division held a news conference to highlight video from three shootings in the northwest area of the city. He said “no less” than 40 per cent of gun discharges happen in his division. His frustration was evident: “I’m pissed off that the people of this community have to put up with this.”
In an August open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Tory asked the federal government to take a look at legislation, police resources and community investment.
Bianca Bharti is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @biancabharti