New federal firearms bill brings relief, say Toronto residents impacted by Danforth shooting

Toronto residents directly affected by a shooting on The Danforth nearly four years ago say they welcome a new federal firearms bill that would freeze the purchase, sale, importation and transfer of handguns in Canada.

Members of Danforth Families for Safe Communities say they feel like they've been heard

People write messages on a makeshift memorial, remembering the victims of a shooting on Danforth Avenue in Toronto on July 22, 2018. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Toronto residents directly affected by a deadly mass shooting on the Danforth nearly four years ago say they welcome a new federal firearms bill that would freeze the purchase, sale, importation and transfer of handguns in Canada.

Members of the advocacy group Danforth Families for Safe Communities say the proposed legislation, Bill C-21, brings relief. The bill was introduced on Monday in the House of Commons.

Group member Ken Price said on Tuesday he feels as though the voices of the victims have finally been heard. His daughter Samantha was shot in the hip at age 17. He said the bill has created hope because it is comprehensive.

"We feel like there's significant progress on some issues and significant movement on behalf of the government. We are hopeful as a result of the announcements that they've made," Price said.

The group has advocated for measures to improve community safety, including gun policy reform, since the shooting in Greektown on July 22, 2018 that left two people dead and 13 others injured. Faisal Hussain used a Smith and Wesson 40 calibre handgun in the shooting before turning the gun on himself.

The bill does not ban handguns outright, allowing current owners to continue to possess and use them, but seeks to cap the number already in Canada.

The number of registered handguns in Canada increased by 71 per cent between 2010 and 2020, reaching approximately 1.1 million, according to federal statistics. Handguns were the most serious weapon present in the majority of firearm-related violent crimes between 2009 and 2020.

'A post-handgun Canada'

Price said the group advocated in particular for the federal government to retain control over the regulation of handguns instead of giving that power to municipal and provincial governments. It was the right move, he said.

"Most importantly, they are going to freeze the market by not issuing any new licences, and therefore, we see this as a phasing out of handguns in Canada ... It allows for a more orderly transition, let's say, to a post-handgun Canada."

Price said the bill is not really a "victory" but it outlines what needs to happen to improve public safety.

Ken Price, whose daughter Samantha was wounded in the Danforth shooting, says: 'We are hopeful as a result of the announcements that they've made.' (CBC)

"What we've tried to do all the way along is just express what we went through as a motivation to the government and to help explain to Canadians who haven't gone through this what it feels like," he said.

"It was an emotional day because we were thinking back to the people who were missing, the people who were injured, those who weren't able to be on stage because they just can't," he added. "I would say implementation is probably the word that we're looking for now."

His daughter Samantha Price told the Canadian Press she was "very happy" with the announcement, adding it would "help us feel safer."

"You want to feel safe in your own community."

Activism 'helps us to heal a little bit,' survivor says

Group member Ali Demircan said on Tuesday that the bill is not going to solve the problem of gun violence, but it is a big step forward. A bullet in the Danforth shooting grazed his back.

"We are aware that it is not the full resolution of the problem of gun crimes," he said. "Of course, we have more to do. Also this work, being part of the solution, helps us to heal a little bit."

Ali Demircan, who was grazed by a bullet in the Danforth shooting, says: 'This legislation, it's going to bring a little relief to all of us. It's going to bring some relief to me and to my family.' (CBC)

Demircan said the shooting was a "life-changing event" that affected him and his family. 

"It's like living in fear that someone walking on the street could have a handgun, hiding it and doing it again, but this legislation ... it's going to bring some relief to me and to my family."

Both Price, his daugher and Demircan were in Ottawa on Monday to hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak about it at a news conference.

Bill a 'solid step forward,' mayor says

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he applauds the legislation.

"I think the measures announced by the government of Canada were another solid step forward. This will freeze the number of handguns in the country, but it'll freeze them, one hopes, in the city as well," Tory said.

This Smith and Wesson .40 calibre handgun was the weapon used in the July 22, 2018 shooting on Danforth Avenue. (Ontario Special Investigations Unit)

But the legislation doesn't sit well with everybody.

Tracey Wilson, vice-president of public relations for the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights and a registered federal lobbyist, said the proposed legislation puts too much emphasis on regulating legal firearms and not enough on controlling unlicensed weapons.

"I see it as ... a bit of a gut punch to the legal gun-owning community who has worked hard to stay safe over the last few decades, and just completely misleadng Canadians to make them think they've done something credible, when once again they haven't."

With files from Talia Ricci and The Canadian Press