Mayors say Liberal gun control plan fails to fix problem, call for handgun ban

Justin Trudeau

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, local leaders said they would like to see a national prohibition on handguns, which the Liberal leader's proposed assault-rifle ban has stopped short of.

``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 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.

Bill Blair, who has served as minister for border security and organized crime reduction in the Trudeau government, suggested a handgun buy-back program factored into the Liberals' 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 committed to moving forward on the strongest gun control measures in Canadian history,'' he said.

``This is a significant, meaningful and historic step in the right direction.''

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 _ and ultimately provinces with powers to overrule them, decide whether to bar weapons could lead to a piecemeal system that fails to stop the bloodshed.

Trudeau 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.''