What should Toronto, and Canada, do about its handgun problem?

Anti-gun posters are seen attached to a tree at Alexander the Great Parkette, the scene of a mass shooting on Danforth Avenue in Toronto, on July 25. EUTERS/Chris Helgren
Would stricter gun laws have saved two young lives?

The latest horror to emerge from the streets of Canada’s largest city brought out more talk about gun control.

Danforth Avenue’s innocence was shattered recently when a gunman killed two young girls and injured 13 more in a shocking public shooting.

And now politicians are promising to crack down even more on gun ownership, especially in cities.

But just what can they do?

The Liberals tabled Bill C-71 recently that would allow government officials to look back through an applicant’s entire history for such things as violent behaviours, previous domestic abuse or mental illness, which is a change from the current limit of five years.

Critics are already saying this is wrong-headed and won’t work to prevent guns from finding their way into criminal’s hands.

“We know criminals do not register their firearms. We know criminals do not buy their firearms from Cabela’s or any other store that sells firearms. It is a ridiculous idea and an asinine policy to burden legal firearms owners, to burden our retail outlets that sell firearms with extra red tape and extra bureaucracy,” said Conservative defence critic James Bezan, to Global News.

Toronto mayor John Tory says the feds need to take it a step further.

“Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?” he asked in the wake of the Danforth shooting.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale responded by promising new action, in addition to Bill C-71, but details remain sketchy. “It is a complex proposition because it would entail a substantial rewriting of the criminal code.”

Crime rates in the city are far higher this year, then in some past years, according to Narcity.

“So far 23 people have been killed by guns in the city this year. Last year there was a total of 39 people for the entire year according to police data,” wrote James Gaughan, after looking at Toronto Police crime data.

Is this just a blip, or must governments take a serious look at solving this problem?

As Doug Saunders of The Globe and Mail pointed out, a lot of the recent horrific shootings have come from legal gun owners: the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting, the Moncton RCMP murders in 2014 and three separate school shootings in Montreal, including the École Polytechnique massacre.

Australia, Germany and England all put in heavy restrictions on gun ownership after deadly rampages and all three countries saw a steep drop in the number of shootings.

“Would Canada fare as well? Some weapons will always creep in from the United States. But a ban would take care of half the supply and raise the price of black-market guns. History suggests that, in the long run, it would lead to fewer dead kids.”

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