RICHMOND HILL, Ont. -- Toronto-area mayors welcomed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's plan to give municipalities the authority to ban handguns, but they said the proposal does not go far enough to staunch the bloodshed.
Meeting with Trudeau on Tuesday in Richmond Hill, Ont., local leaders said they would like to see a national prohibition on handguns, which he has refused to commit to -- opting instead for an assault-rifle ban.
"It's ineffective unless it's more widespread. So all of us here would have preferred to see it nationally," said Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.
"At this time, however, we are appreciative of the funding announcement that will go directly to help us fund guns and gangs (programs) and give us the resources that we need directly."
Crombie said she hopes Ontario mayors will encourage Premier Doug Ford -- who has said he opposes a handgun ban -- to green-light municipalities' efforts to prohibit all firearms.
The Liberal gun-control plan would outlaw the semi-automatic AR-15 -- a military-grade weapon used in many recent U.S. mass shootings -- as well as a buy-back program for legally purchased assault rifles.
But it doesn't go as far as a prohibition on pistols, something that doctors and other health professionals are also calling for.
Liberal candidate Bill Blair, who served as Toronto police chief for a decade, suggested that a handgun buy-back program factored into the Grits' decision to hold off on a ban, estimating it would cost about $1.5 billion.
"The average price of these guns, say, would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1,500 -- and I haven't got the precise number on that -- and then there's a million of them," he said.
"I think you can do the math -- that's a lot of money."
Trudeau's move to hand banning power to municipal governments -- they will still require provincial approval -- came after a campaign stop with seven mayors from the Greater Toronto Area to discuss rising gun violence, focusing on the issue for the second straight day.
All seven who lined up behind Trudeau raised their hands in support of a national ban on handguns when asked by a reporter.
Trudeau defended his decision not to ban handguns nationally, saying his plan to ban assault rifles was still better than the approach of his Conservative opponents. He accused them of weakening gun-control efforts.
"We are taking the strongest step in Canadian history to move forward on tougher gun legislation," he said. "The time for thoughts and prayers from politicians in this country is over."
On Monday, Trudeau met doctors and other health professionals, some of whom also called on him to ban handguns after describing the bloody fallout from increasing gun violence in Toronto.
The city has seen 342 incidents of gun violence this year, in which 505 people have been shot and 29 of them killed, according to police statistics. That's more shootings than in all of 2018. The police added two weekend incidents and one death to their tally on Monday.
Some argued an assault-rifle ban does not go far enough, and that letting cities decide whether to bar weapons could lead to a piecemeal system that fails to stop the bloodshed.
"Criminals know no borders, so when they cross a municipal border, they don't stop to think, 'Am I doing the right thing here?' " Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said at a Richmond Hill community centre, where morning fitness buffs moved to Shawn Mendes tunes in an exercise class down the hall.
Scarpitti added that more resources need to go toward plugging the flow of firearms into Canada from the U.S.
Trudeau, who spent much of the day prepping for Wednesday night's French-language debate hosted by TVA, also announced a federal commitment of $250 million over five years to help cities develop "on the ground" solutions to gang violence. He said the federal government would give the money directly to municipalities, "bypassing" the need to deal with provinces.
Trudeau said municipal leaders across Ontario and the rest of the country "deserve a partner who will invest in them and give them the tools to keep fighting against gun crime."
"Unfortunately, the politics at Queen's Park and Doug Ford's approach has not delivered the money that municipalities needed to keep their citizens safe, which is why our commitment of $250 million for municipalities will go directly to those municipalities."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2019.October 1, 2019