Hamilton should ban guns, mayor says

Mayor Fred Eisenberger says the city should ban guns after a brazen daytime shooting in central Hamilton this week. But is that even something the city can make laws about?

The call comes after a brazen daytime shooting in the central lower city

Mayor Fred Eisenberger says the city should ban guns after a brazen daytime shooting in central Hamilton this week.

The shooting, which involved men firing at each other on street corners as cars passed on Main Street a few feet away, is alarming and troubling for Hamiltonians, Eisenberger said.

"Most reasonable people would wonder why people are carrying guns in the first place, so let's see what we can do," he said.

No one was injured in the Sunday shooting, but the incident was alarming. Gunfire erupted at Main Street East and East Avenue around 6 p.m., damaging cars and buildings in the area. Hamilton Police's gangs and weapons unit is investigating.

We can't stop idiots from being idiots. I want to know if we can stop them from having guns.- Mayor Fred Eisenberger

Hamilton has seen violence before, the mayor said. But "people standing on the street shooting at one another" is a troubling new level.

"This is a step in the absolute wrong direction, and a decline that you don't want to continue to let slip," he said. "So how do we nip this in the bud?"

The mayor asked staff for a report at the general issues committee on Wednesday. The city may not have the constitutional right or ability to ban guns, he said, but it's worth looking into.
Hamilton police released this image of the shootout that took place Sunday in Central Hamilton in hopes of tracking down suspects. (Hamilton police)

"I can't think of any reason anyone in our city would need a gun," he said.

Rural areas are slightly different, he said, but "in the city, other than the police, I see absolutely no ability for people to own guns." 

"We can't stop idiots from being idiots. I want to know if we can stop them from having guns."

Eisenberger is not the only municipal politician who has tried to ban guns. Olivia Chow called for a handgun ban in her failed bid for mayor of Toronto, despite the fact handguns are already a restricted firearm in Canada.

Toronto lawyer and municipal law expert John Mascarin said there is a possibility the city could enact such a bylaw under section 11 of the Municipal Act, "Based on its authority to enact by-laws dealing with the 'health, safety and well-being of persons'" within the city boundaries.

"The big 'if' is whether such a by-law conflicts with other legislation," continued Mascarin. "Section 14 of the Municipal Act, 2001 provides that a by-law is without effect to the extent it conflicts with any legislation of the provincial or federal government.  I do not know how guns are regulated but if the by-law frustrates the purpose of a federal or provincial statute, regulation or order, then the by-law would not be effective."

Firearms instructor Tony Di Salvatore says a municipal ban on guns would be "punishing the good guys to get to the bad guys."

"The legitimate gun owner, the person the goes through all the trouble of taking the courses… the crazy steps along the way, is not really going to go through all that if he's a criminal," said Di Salvatore, who owns an operates the Canadian Firearms Academy in Surrey, B.C. "By banning guns in the city limit are you really stopping the criminal?"

Eisenberger's suggestion "came out of left field," said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, chair of the police services board.

"I understand why Fred feels desperate to do something," he said. "People are shooting in the streets like it's the old west."

But with most gun control efforts, the good guys follow the laws and the bad guys don't, he said. "I don't know how you get around that."

Sunday's incident capped off a violent few days in an area that saw two shootings and a man who was killed near an elementary school.


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