Politics

Toronto mayor says city-wide handgun ban would be enough

Toronto's mayor is softening his call for a national handgun ban in hope of getting a city-wide ban sooner. 

John Tory changes tune after more than a year of calling for national ban

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he'd be happy with a city-wide ban on handguns. (John Rieti/CBC)

Toronto's mayor is softening his call for a national handgun ban in hope of getting a city-wide ban sooner. 

For more than a year John Tory has been calling for national restrictions on handguns but, after getting mixed reactions, told CBC Radio's The House he's willing to reconsider.

"If they just did it in Toronto I'd be happy with that," he said on Saturday, one week after a spate of violence that saw 17 people shot in 14 separate incidents across Toronto over the Civic Holiday long weekend.

Tory indicated a local ban might be more politically palatable. 

The Liberal government has been looking into banning handguns for a year, but earlier this week their point man on the portfolio wouldn't commit to one. 

Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair admitted more measures must be taken to choke the supply and demand for illegal firearms, but stopped short of endorsing a ban.

"There's no one simple solution. There's a thousand things we must do and we must do them all well," Blair said at a news conference on Thursday. 

But his colleague, Toronto-area MP Adam Vaughn, went a step further, predicting a ban will be among the Liberals' election promises this fall. 

"I think we'll see it in the platform. I think we'll prosecute the argument with Canadians through an election. We'll get a mandate to act and you'll see that as part of a comprehensive approach," Vaughan said on The House.

The cost of implementing a handgun ban has been estimated at upward of $2 billion. Their use in crimes is growing. Data from Statistics Canada shows handguns were used in 59 per cent of all violent gun crimes in 2017, up 42 per cent from 2013. 

But there are mixed feelings among Canadians about prohibiting the weapons. 

Government consultations last October showed — of the 134,917 questionnaires completed online — 81 per cent of respondents said nothing more should be done to limit access to handguns. 

The gun violence in Toronto during the Civic Holiday long weekend saw 17 people shot during 14 separate incidents. 2:03

Though the Conservatives agree measures must be taken to stop gun violence, in their view, a handgun ban isn't the answer.

"There's no evidence to show that this is going to work," MP Michelle Rempel said.

Most illegal guns in Canada used to be smuggled from the U.S., but that seems to be changing. According to Toronto police, a growing number of guns are bought legally in Canada and resold on the black market, or made here illegally.

A ban likely wouldn't be able to target that problem specifically. A briefing note on the consultations concluded a ban would mostly affect collectors and sport shooters — and would only indirectly affect the illegal market by limiting access to divert or steal the weapons. 

While the Conservatives criticize the Liberals for going after legal firearms owners, the NDP questions why the Liberals didn't act on handguns sooner. 

It's a contentious political debate that divides MPs and the public across the spectrum, but Tory says it's time to put partisanship aside and focus on policy — though he doesn't rule out the potential for this issue to shake up the federal election in his city. 

"You don't want it to become political, but at the same time we have elections so people can make choices on policy and as long as it's a thoughtful discussion I'm all in favour," he said. 

"If it makes one bit of difference in terms of reducing these shootings and in particular reducing the loss of life and the trauma caused by handguns, why wouldn't you take the step?"

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