Assault weapons ban ‘significant,’ but handguns the key to Toronto gun violence, say advocates
The federal government’s move to immediately ban a range of assault-style guns is being lauded by Toronto community safety advocates as “significant” — but they say far more needs to be done to reduce the gun violence plaguing this city.
“We’re glad to see this moving forward as one of the things that we asked for,” said Ken Price, whose daughter Samantha was among 13 injured in the July 2018 Danforth shooting, which saw Reese Fallon, 18, and Julianna Kozis, 10, killed by gunman Faisal Hussain, who later shot himself.
In the wake of the shooting, Price and his family have banded with others impacted by the high-profile shooting to push for legislative change to reduce violence, with increased gun control foremost among their demands.
Friday’s announcement — which forbids the use and trade of 1,500 “military-style” weapons — marks a “significant” step forward, Price said, validating the group’s view that specialized weapons should not be “unnecessarily” in the hands of so many Canadians.
But Price said he and others will continue to push for greater restraints on access to firearms, most notably, the much-debated ban on handguns — something a chorus of municipal governments, advocacy groups and health professionals, including Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, have been calling for.
“It seems to us that a national handgun ban is the right way to go. We would hope that the dialogue continues,” Price said.
Guns are the most fatal weapon in Toronto, used in 52 per cent of all homicides between 2004 and 2018 inclusive, and accounting for over 500 deaths. Of the 24 homicides in Toronto so far this year, 14 have involved firearms, including Sunday’s fatal shooting of 15-year-old Jeremiah Ranger. But the vast majority of gun deaths in cities is caused by handguns: Statistics Canada reported that in 2017, 68 per cent of violent gun crime in urban Canada involved handguns.
In an interview Friday, Toronto Mayor John Tory reiterated his support for a national handgun ban, which he said would “contribute to a reduction in gun violence, whatever the size of that reduction might be.
“We’ll see what’s coming from (the federal government) in future chapters, but I think today was a useful start consistent with the commitments they made during the election,” Tory said.
Critics say a handgun ban would not make a dent in Toronto’s gun violence problem because crime guns often originate from the United States, the weapons smuggled across the border. According to Toronto police, 70 per cent of the guns sourced in 2018 originated in the U.S., while 30 per cent were domestic.
In an interview Thursday night, Dr. Najma Ahmed said the assault rifle ban was “welcome… but we know that’s the only the beginning,”
A member of Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, Ahmed is a trauma doctor at St. Mike’s Hospital who treated victims of the Danforth shooting. In a statement, the doctors’ group said the need to reduce access to guns is particularly urgent during a pandemic, when there is a heightened risk of violence against women and suicide.
Saying the ban on assault-style guns will usher in “a new era for public safety and gun control,” the group also said more work has to be done — including so-called “red flag laws,” which would allow for the court-ordered removal of guns from people at risk of hurting themselves or others.
“We know that we have to pay attention to things like social determinants of health, semi-automatic handguns, red flags laws, which we will need to work on in an iterative and comprehensive way to see real change in our society,” Ahmed said.
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On Twitter, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said that taking “military assault style weapons off the street contributes to public safety.”
“I support any step that helps prevent the circulation of these weapons that endanger families and communities,” Saunders wrote.
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