Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Toronto City Council seeks to ban handgun sales locally
The City of Toronto is seeking federal authority to outlaw the sale of handguns and their ammunition within the 416 area.
Council will also ask the federal government to ban handguns, assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons across the country except for police, military and security uses. The motion was approved in a vote of 41-4.
“People in the City of Toronto don’t need handguns,” Mayor John Tory said at the end of a day-long discussion over the best way to response to gun violence.
Councillor Joe Cressy kicked off the debate on violence prevention Tuesday, questioning whether it was possible to outlaw handguns outright in the city, something he was told would require legislative changes by the Justin Trudeau government.
Police Chief Mark Saunders told council he wasn’t so much concerned with legal gun owners, but rather the criminals who find it increasingly easy to get their hands on such weapons — especially with the possibility of 3D-printed guns.
Saunders, with the support of Tory, has endorsed the more widespread use of surveillance cameras and ShotSpotter, technology that listens for gunshots and notifies the police.
“This is what I want to give the chief because this is what he says he needs in order to do the job,” Tory said.
The mayor also introduced motions, supported by council, to ask the feds to toughen the penalties against gun trafficking, including mandatory minimum sentences.
Council had already planned to discuss a number of youth and community programs to prevent violence following an increase in gun-related crime in Toronto this year, and the horrific Danforth Ave. shooting added to the urgency.
The debate seesawed between violence prevention and enforcement, from a gun repository to programs to combat racism and youth unemployment to an under-15 midnight curfew to a citywide handgun ban.
“Enforcement is the only way to deal with this issue,” said Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti who proposed the curfew, easier evictions from Toronto Community Housing, a study on the contribution of “lack of parenting“ to crime, the hiring of 100 new police officers and an appeal for more investigative resources for police.
While council rejected the curfew idea, it did back the call for more police officer hires and easier evictions of criminals.
A TCHC official confirmed that there’s even a term — “a unit takeover” — for criminals who claim the home of a resident with a lease to, for example, turn it into a drug den.
On the flip side of the debate were those councillors who were concerned that beefing up surveillance and sending more cops into a community already marginalized by racism and poverty would send a negative message.
“What does that tell you about your social worth?” Councillor Gord Perks said, calling instead for programs that promote self value and inclusion.
An attempt to withdraw funding from the surveillance camera and ShotSpotter programs was rejected by the majority of council, but it did vote to spend millions more on anti-violence programs such as youth employment and community trauma teams.
Saunders said there is no one fix to gun crime, and police can’t do it all.
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