Handgun ban sought by Toronto victims' families

The families of two Toronto men who were fatally shot four years ago mark the grim anniversary by calling for a countrywide ban on handguns.

Toronto councillor also calling for ban on bullets

The families of two Toronto men who were fatally shot four years ago marked the grim anniversary by calling for a countrywide ban on handguns.  

Oliver Martin, 25, and his friend Dylan Ellis, 26, were in a Range Rover at Richmond and Walnut streets in downtown Toronto on June 13, 2008, when they were killed. Toronto police say the slayings remain unsolved and no arrests were made.

Martin's stepfather, Alan Dudeck, wants politicians from every level of government to enact a ban on the private ownership of handguns.

The families took their plea to Queen's Park on Wednesday afternoon.

"I believe ultimately it's the federal government's jurisdiction," Dudeck said. "But I think we need everyone on side — municipal, provincial and federal."

The families argue that smaller firearms serve no legitimate purpose.

Alan Dudeck was among the people taking a plea for a handgun ban to Queen's Park on Wednesday afternoon. (CBC)

"No one should have the right to own a handgun except the police," said Oliver Martin's mother, Susan. "Handguns are easy to hide and are used, with few exceptions, for one purpose only: to wound or kill someone."

The families are also urging the federal government to keep the now defunct long-gun registry's data available to police. "Harper and his cronies seem to be determined to delete that information, which would be a travesty," Dudeck said.

Toronto Coun. Adam Vaughan joined the families at Queen's Park, backing the gun ban and also calling for a ban on bullets. Vaughan said there's no reason anyone would need to buy bullets in Toronto.

"Whether it's domestic violence, whether it's suicide or whether it's some of those situations we see in public spaces, the harder we make for people to get bullets, the safer we're going to make it for all those other people in this city," he said.

Vaughan hopes to achieve the ban through city zoning rules. The councillor said if Toronto can ban plastic bags as the council did last week, banning weapons shouldn't be a problem. He will introduce a motion in Toronto council next week.

Mayor Rob Ford said such a ban would unduly punish legal hunters, while Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews called the proposal a "a misdirected effort."

"The issue isn't the legality or illegality of bullets or guns," he said Wednesday. "The issue is these guns in the hands of criminals. That needs to be stopped."

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said that he supports a handgun ban, but that it's a federal decision.

Gun bans attempted before

Handguns are considered restricted or prohibited weapons under current federal law, meaning they must be registered by their owner.

Anyone looking to purchase one must also obtain a licence. 

Many have sought to get rid of them altogether, including a 2005 bid by then Liberal leader Paul Martin.

Toronto cracked down on shooting ranges under former mayor David Miller, who then launched an unsuccessful petition to prohibit handguns across the country.

Toronto gun violence up in 2012

The fresh calls for a handgun ban, which were also heard at a vigil at Yonge-Dundas Square Monday night, comes as gun violence is on the rise in Canada's largest city.

A daylight shooting June 2 at the Toronto Eaton Centre that killed two men is one of 114 shootings so far in 2012 — a year-to-date increase of 33 per cent. The number of victims as of Tuesday stands at 143, up from 102 at this time last year, a 40 per cent jump. 

Gun violence was down considerably the last two years, however, and the 2012 numbers are roughly the same as at this time in 2009.

Reformed gang leader says ban wouldn't work  

Attempts to ban guns have met staunch opposition from the gun lobby and other critics, who argue a ban would do little against illegal handguns typically used to commit crimes.

At least one man who has seen his share of gun violence said a ban would miss the mark.

Oliver Martin and Dylan Ellis were in this Range Rover in downtown Toronto when they were fatally shot in 2008. (CBC)

"You would have to remove every gun from society," said Richard Atkinson, who once led the Dirty Tricks gang, responsible for hundreds of bank robberies and holdups during the 1970s and 1980s. 

Atkinson, who served nearly 30 years in prison, now works with at-risk youth in his old Alexandra Park neighbourhood. He says the solution is the same as it was three decades ago: programs for youth in at-risk neighbourhoods.

"Albeit they didn't have an impact with me, I was the leader," he said. "But they had an impact on some of the guys that hung around with me, and those guys went on to lead pro-social lives."

Atkinson and other community members met with police on Tuesday night, so police could discuss their plans to increase patrols in response to the Eaton Centre shooting. Atkinson called it a Band-Aid solution that does little more than send gang members into hiding for a few weeks.

With files from The Canadian Press