On February 17, the Federal Government introduced new legislation that would permit cities to ban handguns — with bylaws that restrict their possession, storage and transportation. While I strongly support actions to reduce the opportunity for dangerous and vulnerable people to access handguns, it has not been demonstrated that a municipal handgun ban would meaningfully address the problem of gun violence.
During my time in office, I have been consistent in my resolve and action to enact stricter gun control legislation and address root causes of gun violence. I have advocated for the retention of the long-gun registry and its data, promoted the idea of regulating and banning bullets from our city limits and have consistently advocated for more resources in addressing the root causes of violence, with progressive responses from health care and justice systems.
With this announcement, the Federal Government has chosen to download the burden of banning handguns to municipalities, which have little ability to realistically enforce a municipal handgun ban. Not only does this legislation require permission from the Provincial Government, in 2019, the City Solicitor confirmed that Toronto does not have the resources including staff to be able to effectively enforce any local ban on handguns.
There are also real questions about the municipal handgun ban. Who exactly wants it? Most Canadian cities have said they want a national ban. Given the division of powers, they will need provincial approval and there are almost no provinces that will support it. What evidence is there anywhere in the world that banning handguns in cities would have any impact? What purpose do handguns serve in rural communities as they are not used for hunting or target shooting?
To make a real impact on gun violence, the Federal Government must implement a national prohibition on the import, possession and sale of handguns and semi-automatic military-style assault weapons, to adopt a public health lens and commit significant funding to ensure community safety by addressing the systemic causes of violence.
In 2019, the Board of Health adopted the Community Violence in Toronto - A Publics Health Approach report, which made a number of requests to the Provincial and Federal Government to take a holistic and intergovernmental approach to addressing gun violence. These requests include a national prohibition on the import, possession and sale of handguns and semi-automatic military-style assault weapons, to adopt a public health lens and commit significant funding to ensure community safety by addressing the systemic causes of violence.
We can make real progress in addressing gun violence, but a municipal handgun ban does not cut it.