Politicians in Ontario are urging the federal government to take action in the wake of a shooting at an east-end Toronto street party that left two dead and 23 others wounded.
Ontario Attorney General John Gerretsen told CBC’s Power & Politics that the recent shooting in Scarborough demonstrates the need for a ban on handguns.
"The first thing we have to do is we have to ban handguns in Canada," Gerretsen said Wednesday, noting that the Ontario government has previously lobbied Ottawa on this point.
A forthcoming meeting involving provincial cabinet ministers and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will address "what more we can do," said Gerretsen.
Ford said he was "very upset" by the brazen shooting on Monday night and has decided to ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper to boost mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of illegally possessing weapons.
"Three years for possession of a handgun? That’s nonsense. They should do some serious hard time," Ford said in an interview with Toronto television station CP24.
When asked if he was going to ask Harper to push for increased minimum sentences, Ford replied, "Absolutely."
"I want to see what's the most they can do. They can do, you know, really whatever they want. They have a majority government. And I'm going to put pressure on them because it’s affecting our city more than any other city in Canada."
Gerretsen said that tougher sentences are only part of the solution to the gun violence problem.
The mayor offered his condolences to the victims of the shooting. Ford also said that those convicted of gun crimes from Toronto shouldn't be allowed to return to the city.
"I want these people out of the city, and I’m not going to stop. Not 'Put them in jail, then come back and you can live in the city,'" he said.
"No. I want them out of the city. Go somewhere else, I don’t want them living in the city anymore."
Ford's comments come one day after Public Safety Minister Vic Toews publicly chided the country's court system for striking down mandatory minimum sentences for gun-related crime.
Earlier this month, an Ontario Court judge struck down the automatic three-year sentence for firearms trafficking, saying it was disproportionate. Justice Paul Bellefontaine said a crack dealer who offered to sell an undercover police officer a non-existent gun should not have to face the mandatory minimum sentence.
In February, another Ontario judge said sending a first-time offender to prison for three years for possessing a loaded gun amounted to "cruel and unusual punishment" and declared the minimum sentence unconstitutional.
Ford said he planned to ask McGuinty for more funding so he can hire more police officers to become part of the Toronto anti-violence intervention strategy (TAVIS) unit. The unit is tasked with engaging with communities and addressing the root causes of violence.
Grandfather pleads for witnesses
The grandfather of Shyanne Charles, the teen girl who died in the shooting on Monday, has pleaded for anyone with information to come forward as police continue to search for those involved. Police have not yet announced any arrests.
"No more hiding, no more secrecy. What you know, let it come forward so my granddaughter's death won't have to be in vain," Tyrone Charles said at a Tuesday evening vigil at the home where Shyanne Charles lived.
Charles said it was time to take a stand.
"Save other kids like her from the same gun violence," he said. "Us, parents in the community, we could do more."
The shooting, which occurred near the intersection of Morningside Avenue and Lawrence Avenue East around 10:40 p.m. Monday night, has shocked residents of the city.
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said Wednesday that the city has made some progress over the last several years in combating violence through a combination of policing and investments in the community.
Violence 'touches all of us'
However, there are still people who are prepared to use weapons in an indiscriminate manner in "isolated" incidents, Blair said.
Those events, including the "unprecedented" shooting on Monday, can threaten citizens' sense of safety.
"When violence takes place in a public way, it touches all of us," he said.
Police officers are seeking out information from the public, including the more than 100 people who attended the party on Danzig Street, as they search for anyone responsible for the attack.
Investigators say they have received some co-operation from witnesses and are specifically asking for anyone who took photos or video of the shooting to come forward.
"There will be lots of time for us to reflect on what last night's violence means in the context of the safety of our entire city, and I think that kind of reflection will be important," Blair said Tuesday evening. "Right now, we are absolutely focused on solving this crime."