WATCH: How easy is it to get an illegal gun in Toronto?
For the Chief of Toronto Police, there is no question--there are more people walking around carrying guns than before.
After a summertime spike in shootings, NEWSTALK 1010 wanted to find out how easy it is to get an illegal weapon on the streets of the Greater Toronto Area.
Yonah Budd, host of NEWSTALK 1010's Straight Talk was confident he could line up a gun through contacts he's made in decades working as a private investigator, crisis intervention specialist, and prison chaplain. He reached out to several people and told them he was curious about the gun buying process but would not necessarily purchase one.
Less than five hours after his first phone call, a connection was made and Budd says he was looking at five guns in a stranger's SUV parked at a big box store mall at 2:30 p.m. on a weekday.
"I'm really mind-boggled," Budd tells NEWSTALK 1010. "I really expected to meet in some warehouse area or in some industrial unit, or in some sketchy underground parking lot."
Budd says a well-dressed man showed him five guns inside a hard plastic case in the back of his SUV: a 9 mm Glock, a Smith & Wesson .38 Special, a palm sized .22 calibre pistol, a short-barrelled shotgun, and what Budd describes only as some kind of assault rifle.
While Budd had no intention to buy, he says the guns were being sold for between $650 and $5,000. Budd says firearms that may have been used in crimes were priced lower than "clean" weapons according to the seller.
While NEWSTALK 1010 cannot independently verify Budd's account, he claims the seller told him his clients are people looking for personal protection.
Crime specialist and former Toronto homicide detective Mark Mendelson tells NEWSTALK 1010 that gun hobbyists who may not be able to get a licence because of criminal records may turn to the black market as well.
Mendelson isn't surprised that the show and tell was in such a public place.
"One of the things you don't want to do when you're driving around with a trunk full of guns is to be in an area that may draw suspicion, that may draw attention from the police," Mendelson says. "It's far safer to do it in a public area, as ironic as that sounds, than doing it in a closed area, in a dark area, in a back alley."
A NEWSTALK 1010 reporter asked shoppers at the big box complex Budd had his rendezvous at how they would feel about guns being sold in the parking lot. They expressed both shock and resignation.
"There's so many strange things happening now, that wouldn't' surprise me," a woman who identified herself as Maria said.
While he understands the alarm, Mendelson doesn't think people in close proximity to illegal gun sales are necessarily in danger.
"People are not buying the guns in the parking lots in order to commit crimes at that particular parking lot."