As gun-related violence spikes in Toronto, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for adding more “common sense” gun restrictions to the country’s already restrictive firearm laws. Toronto enjoys a relatively low gun-related homicide rate compared to many U.S. cities, but that hasn’t stopped Trudeau from blaming guns for the city’s crime.
“Recent shootings have underscored the need for common sense firearms policy,” Trudeau said at a press conference after a meeting with Toronto Mayor John Tory. “We need action. But Mayor Tory and I agree that we can’t simply arrest our way out of this problem.”
Seventeen people were shot in one weekend last week, and this summer saw the most shootings ever recorded in one month in Toronto, City News reported. The number of shootings so far this year (267) has eclipsed the number occurring over the same period last year (248), according to Reuters. Twenty people have died as a result of this year’s violence and 132 people have been injured.
Officials in Toronto and Montreal have requested a nationwide handgun ban to combat the violence, but Trudeau stopped short of promising that policy in his statements earlier this week.
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But gun control is still likely to be a major issue in Canada’s upcoming elections, and Trudeau acknowledged that gun control will be a part of his party’s platform, along with investing in police departments to help combat “gun violence.”
On Monday the federal and Toronto municipal governments each pledged C$1.5 million ($1.13 million) to the Toronto Police Service to help combat gun violence.
Tory believes that, along with a handgun ban, Toronto needs a tougher stance on crime.
“We have to address the root causes of gun violence and get much tougher with criminals who often laugh at things—literally, laugh at things—like bail and sentences practices,” he said.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders agrees with Tory’s tough-on-crime stance, but he doesn’t believe a handgun ban will decrease gun-related violence.
“We know that most gun violence in Toronto is directly connected to street gang activity,” he said on Twitter, adding that the police will be rolling out a plan to combat gang violence in the coming weeks.
I welcome Mayor Tory’s initiative securing Provincial and Federal funds to help address gun violence in our city. We know that most gun violence in Toronto is directly connected to street gang activity. @TorontoPolice has a comprehensive plan to address the issue. 1/2— Mark Saunders (@marksaunderstps) August 12, 2019
Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer pointed out that much of the violence perpetrated with guns is committed by known criminals with already-illegal firearms.
“In every single case there are already offences for that. They’re already breaking the law and the criminal law in Canada addresses all of those circumstances,” Palmer said Wednesday.
“The firearms laws in Canada are actually very good right now. They’re very strict.”
Canada’s gun control policies are much more restrictive than those in the United States, despite a thriving pro-gun culture in rural areas and western provinces. Some municipalities like Toronto totally ban handgun possession. Owning any type of firearm requires passing a safety course and obtaining a license, and handguns and AR-type rifles require obtaining an additional “Restricted License.”