The Current

'Urban movement' grows as municipalities take sale of handguns into their own hands

After a deadly shooting in the city's Greektown neighbourhood, Toronto council approved a motion to urge the federal government to forbid the sale of handguns in the city.

Cities are tired of federal approach to gun crime, says Toronto councillor Paula Fletcher

A friend of Danforth shooting victim Reese Fallon writes Reese's name on a makeshift memorial for Toronto's east-end shooting. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ready Story Transcript

Councillors and community members in several Canadian cities have grown frustrated with what they consider inaction on the federal government's part to ban guns — and now they're taking matters into their own hands.

In a vote of 41-4 on Tuesday, Toronto council approved a motion to urge the federal government to forbid the sale of handguns in the city and for the province to outlaw the sale of handgun ammunition in Toronto.

"We're telling [the federal government] this is how we have to tackle guns now. We've tried it your way," Paula Fletcher, city councillor for Toronto-Danforth ward told The Current.

Her ward was the site of a shocking mass shooting Sunday night, when a gunman killed two people and injured 13 others.

Last May, Quebec City community members urged the Liberal government to ban rifles like the one used in the city's 2017 mosque attack that killed six people.

Fletcher said she's also heard from Ottawa city councillors who were inspired by Toronto's recent motion.

"This could become more of an urban movement," said Fletcher.

"This is not about somebody living, where my camp is, up in Northern Ontario [who] has their rifle. This is about 2.7 million people in a large urban environment and not having … legal access to a handgun."

Toronto has seen a spike in gun violence this year, with 228 shootings in 2018 compared to 84 at the same time last calendar year.

Toronto city councillors Paula Fletcher, left, and Mary Fragedakis. (Ed Middleton/CBC)

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters Tuesday the federal government is prepared to consider arguments for tightening handgun laws, but warned this would demand a significant remodelling of the Criminal Code.

Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction (and former Toronto Police chief) Bill Blair said the federal government wants to work with Toronto and stakeholders across the country on this issue. But he qualified that any initiative has to be "proportional ... ensuring that we take into consideration every concern and perspective."

"There are many responsible gun owners in this country," said Blair, "but we've got to do everything that we can to ensure that handguns are kept out of the hands of criminals."

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he supports banning the sale of handguns and ammunition in the city of Toronto. (Nick Kozak/Canadian Press)

Blair said Bill-C71, which is aimed at tightening controls on handguns and remains before the Senate, is an indication of the government's commitment to gun control.

He added that although there has been a rise in domestic gun possession, the vast majority of guns used in Canadian crime are obtained illegally.

"[From 2005 to 2016], we traced the origin of every gun that was seized at that time, and about 70 per cent all of the crime guns, an overwhelming majority … were sourced in the United States."

Fletcher and Blair both agree that additional investments are needed to tackle the social conditions that incite crime, but Fletcher maintains a ban on handguns has symbolic value that should not be overlooked.

"Handgun ownership should not be seen as something that's casual. It should no longer be casual," she said.

"They should be banned in the city of Toronto. That's a very different message than, 'Well, it's OK if you're responsible gun owner, etc.' A very different message."

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.

This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino and Richard Raycraft,