Toronto Greens public statement on fighting gun crime

HandgunWhile Canada has a low incidence of gun crime, Toronto has had recent problems with gun fatalities, including some affecting uninvolved bystanders. It’s time to tackle this issue. Toronto Greens recommend a three-prong approach of strong gun control, strong enforcement and strong prevention measures.


  1. Strong gun control:
    • Retain gun registry.
    • Ban handguns with buy-back program.
    • Ban ammunition sales in Toronto.
  2. Strong enforcement:
    • Mark and trace all weapons.
    • Enforce current minimum sentences.
    • Treat gun smuggling as a high-level gun crime.
  3. Strong prevention measures:
    • Neighborhood-driven, coordinated intervention by a variety of agencies.

Strong gun control

Under current federal law, a gun licence costs $12 a year for an unlimited number of rifles. For an additional $4 a year, you can add any number of handguns and assault rifles to your collection, weapons whose only purpose is to kill people. Kids as young as 12 can possess guns owned by someone else with parental consent. They can buy ammunition and use these guns for target practice, or go hunting if they have a hunting licence.

Prime Minister Harper believes these gun rules are too onerous. On November 16, 2007, his government introduced a bill that would repeal the gun registry for rifles.

In Toronto, a licence to own a cat costs $15 a year for each sterilized cat and $50 for each unsterilized cat. A dog licence costs $20 for a sterilized dog and $60 for an unsterilized dog. You can’t have more than 6 animals, and no more than 3 dogs. Throughout Ontario we cannot have pit bulls at all, because they’re perceived as too often lethal to humans.

Toronto Greens accept the necessity of reasonable restrictions on pet ownership. We recognize that uncontrolled animals are a social danger. We also assert that uncontrolled guns are a greater social threat, so guns require greater restrictions than pets.

The loudest argument against the current gun registry is that it costs too much. It costs too much because the same critics who want to repeal it repeatedly lobby the government to reduce or waive fees on any number of grounds. Meanwhile, police hail the gun registry and oppose Harper’s plan to repeal it. When they approach a crime scene, it’s immensely helpful to them to have an idea in advance of the number and type of firearms they are likely to be facing. The gun registry needs to remain and should pay for itself.

Toronto Greens support the national handgun ban proposed by Mayor David Miller, by Dalton McGuinty’s provincial government in June of 2006, by Paul Martin’s Liberals during the 2006 election and by the Green Party of Canada for many years. Toronto Greens would extend this ban to all weapons on Canada’s restricted weapons list, which includes assault weapons even deadlier than handguns. Restricted weapons are designed to kill people. We don’t need any of them. We need a full buy-back program to get these lethal weapons off the streets throughout Canada. Weapons on Canada’s restricted list are more lethal than pit bulls, and don’t even serve the purpose of companionship. Toronto Greens would like to see a ban on the sale of ammunition within the city. Even recreational hunters who may have a legitimate reason to keep their weapons in the city have absolutely no reason to purchase ammunition here.

The long gun registry has not yet resulted in a dramatic decrease in gun crimes. A handgun ban is likewise unlikely to have immediate positive results. It takes time to reduce the number of guns in circulation. It takes longer to change behaviour. If handguns are banned, anyone with a handgun will be guilty of a gun crime, so for a while, there may be a misleading increase in gun crime statistics. But countries with strong control of firearms have lower rates of gun death from suicide, homicide and accidental death. Rates of death with other weapons do not go up correspondingly when gun controls are tighter. In the long run, we will clearly be safer the more tightly we control our firearms.

Strong enforcement

Canada should take a lead role in stopping the illicit global trade of small arms. Our geographical position next door to the source country of much of the world’s arms demands it. Our vulnerability to the illicit small-arms trade, which generates three-quarters of the handguns and half the guns overall used in crime in Canada demands it. Our obligations to UN conventions we have signed demand that we at least mark and trace guns that pass through Canada. We also need to treat gun smuggling more seriously. Today, it’s treated as a customs violation. It should be treated as a gun crime of the most serious nature.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives propose harsh mandatory sentences for gun crimes and a reverse-onus bail provision for those already convicted of a gun crime and facing new charges. The Green Party agrees that we need to get tougher about gun crimes. The problem is that existing sentences are rarely
used, as gun charges are routinely dropped. Making tougher mandatory sentences would increase the pressure to ignore gun crimes. Rather than calling for tougher mandatory sentences, Toronto Greens would work to close loopholes in existing legislation to make sure that gun charges are carried to court
in all but very exceptional cases. The reverse onus provision, which would make it harder for people with prior gun crime convictions to get bail on subsequent gun charges, has some merit.

Strong prevention measures

Finally, while it’s important to keep dangerous offenders off our streets, it’s clearly better if we nurture the conditions in which fewer people are encouraged to engage in crime in the first place. So we also need to invest in our communities, to develop strong intervention programmes for youth at risk and to
offer real alternatives to crime. We particularly need to focus on areas where youth crime rates are high.

This is probably the most important part of any crime control strategy. It involves investment by all levels of government and cooperation between police forces, schools, youth agencies, community groups and ecumenical organizations at a neighbourhood level. It has rapid results, as demonstrated by the Boston Miracle which employed these methods. However, it must also be sustained. When intervention goes down, crime rates can go up again.

Our kids need opportunities that offer them hope and activities that channel their energies in a positive direction. Let’s make sure it’s easier for our youth to get a kitten than a gun.

10 responses to “Toronto Greens public statement on fighting gun crime”

  1. Judy Hannon writes:

    I have to disagree with the notion of a handgun ban. Responsible, legal gun owners are not the problem. Target shooting (which doesn’t involve killing people) is a sport enjoyed by many, and these law-abiding citizens should not be penalized for the actions of criminals. A handgun ban will hurt them, but I don’t believe they are the source of guns on our streets. Some investigation into the requirements for properly storing guns in the home would reveal that it would require too much effort to obtain illegal firearms this way.

  2. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu writes:

    Hi Judy,

    We have to balance individual enjoyment with risk to others. The hurt suffered by a target shooter unable to own a gun cannot compare to the hurt of a family who loses a loved one in the crossfire of a gang war.

    I completely agree that responsible legal gun owners are not the problem.

    The problem is that it’s impossible to tell, when someone buys a gun, whether he is responsible or not. It is impossible to tell what he intends to use that gun for. Handguns are not useful for hunting, they are people killers. So it’s no surprise that a lot of them are purchased for reasons we should not be supporting. And a lot of these buyers claim that they are buying guns for target shooting.

    In this sense, the rationale for a handgun ban is no different than the reason you cannot buy a whole host of dangerous things – bombs, poisons, reactor waste, landmines.

    About a quarter of the guns recovered in crimes in Canada are legally owned by Canadian owners. Another quarter have sources that cannot be identified and may be Canadian. John O’Keefe was shot in January at Yonge and Bloor with a gun owned by and registered to his killer. Mr. O’Keefe would probably be alive today if handguns were banned.

    Clearly, the wider the ban, the more effective it is. We are vulnerable in Canada because we are next door to the most heavily armed country in the world, and where the right to bear arms is constitutionally enshrined. Without a handgun ban throughout North America, some illegal guns will always make it into Canada.

    So I won’t pretend that gun deaths will be behind us with a handgun ban. It is a small part of a strategy to a big problem that can never be completely eradicated.

    I do think that people who enjoy target shooting would be able to continue under a handgun ban. They just wouldn’t be able to own their own handguns. Gun clubs today already have guns available to members. If we make sure that collections such as these are periodically inspected and adequately protected from theft, they should be able to continue.

  3. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu writes:

    Hi Judy,

    You may be interested to know that the nominated candidate in Toronto-Danforth for the Liberal party, Andrew Lang, also proposes a handgun ban, but has a specific plan for target shooters that would allow them to own guns that would be kept at an accredited target range of their choice. Guns could only be moved by the security service.

    My understanding is that target ranges are already magnets for gun theft. A target range is a large, advertised cache of weapons. Mr. Lang doesn’t mention how he plans to overcome this issue. However, I’m also certain that it can be overcome. If he’s willing to have the security service move guns, he should be willing to make sure any place where weapons are legally kept is adequately secured.

  4. Andrew Lang writes:

    Hi Judy, Adriana,

    I think we all agree that hand guns should be irradicated. In order to mollify the opposition and get action on this quickly, a balanced approach may be required.

    My plan would have very high standards of security for ranges and transport.

    This issue should not be politicized. If we all ask for this very logical policy with a single voice we will get rid of the guns.

    Andrew Lang

  5. larry mchenry writes:

    Let me clarify many untruths listed above.

    Quit spouting crap and look up the canadian firearms act.

    -Banning the long gun registry will not eliminate handgun registration that has been required since 1968.
    -Nor will it stop the requirement to test, train and certify gun owners.
    -Guns cannot be owned by youth as young as twelve.
    -Guns can only be bought by those 18 or older under current laws.
    -A minors licence is required at 15 with restrictions listed such as the hunter can only use a gun in direct site of the paretn or adult.
    -Handguns are not stored at gun clubs they are legally required to be locked in a case and taken on a prescribed route to and from a gun club.

    Banning handguns will not remove the 75% of the illegally smuggled guns in from the USA.

    Banning guns will not stop suicide as its a function of the horrible mental health system we have in canada.
    We have severe shortages of mental health care and doctors, our society is weak and destroying itself.

    Fix the root causes of societies ills , not bthe results of it.

    Ban OXycontin and percosete (SP?), legalize marijuana and stop making it a crime and creating illegal markets that encourage violence.

    If the LCBO can legally sell booze and its sordid effect on society why not ban alcohol, better yet ban cars as when people drink they sometimes drive cars.
    That makes real sense as well.

    Grow up all of you and fix real problems! I suggest we ban people because you nknow what, we are the true root cause of everything, violence, drugs, theft, suicide. Same logic as banning guns, banning people will fix everything wont it.

  6. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu writes:

    Hi Larry,

    Going over your statement and mine, I assert that everything I wrote was absolutely true. And I suspect we agree on most things.

    I never said that a repeal of the long-gun registry would repeal the registry on handguns.

    I never said youth could purchase guns. Youth can, however, “possess” a gun purchased by someone else, and they can purchase ammunition for it. While minors licenses are usually given only to kids 15 years old and up, in some exceptional circumstances for subsistence hunters, they are given to kids as young as 12.

    I never said (personal) guns are stored at gun clubs. Local Liberal candidate Andrew Lang would like handguns to be stored at gun clubs for target shooters, and banned in people’s homes. (Section 9 of the Firearms Act does allow for businesses, such as shooting ranges, to store guns.)

    I do not believe that 75% of handguns are illegally smuggled. If we look at handguns recovered in crimes, a quarter are identified to have been registered in Canada. But that doesn’t mean that the other three quarters are from outside Canada. The origin of most guns recovered in crime are unknown. Some were likely stolen in Canada while others were smuggled in. Police estimate that about half the guns used in crime in Canada are illegally smuggled. But I assume that guns used in crime are a small fraction of the guns around in Canada. And I assume that law-abiding owners whose guns are unlikely to be involved in crime purchase guns legally in Canada. So the overall percentage of handguns illegally smuggled is likely to be well below half.

    However, I agree that a ban would not in itself be helpful in stopping the large numbers of guns smuggled into the country. That’s why we advocate for the second part of the statement, where we talk about strong enforcement, especially at the border.

    I agree that banning guns will not stop suicide. We do not advocate banning guns anyway. We advocate banning handguns, and the majority of gun suicides are actually with long guns. However, it is a fact that the presence of a gun in a home is a factor that increases the likelihood of suicide. So it is likely that a handgun ban, if it decreases the number of households with guns, might decrease the suicide rate.

    I completely agree that we should direct more energy to working on mental health. The Green Party of Canada also advocates legalizing marijuana and moving to prevention rather than overmedication as a health model.

    Most important, I’d like to stress that the third part of our statement is actually the most important. What would really have the most impact in reducing gun crimes is investing more in our youth and enabling them to have more positive outlets.

    Your proposal to ban people is intriguing. I’m sure most other species would appreciate the gesture.

  7. Bill Gibbons writes:

    Let me give you some facts about just how much of a complete disaster gun control has been in the UK. As most sane people know, banning guns does not stop the criminals from carrying them. So how has Britain fared since former prime minister Tony Blair’s all out macho “total ban” on handguns in 1997? Before Blair decided to disarm millions of law abiding citizens who were not hell-bent on killing each other, the country had three mass shooting that unarmed police officers could not stop. Most recently, in April 2009 in picturesque Cumbria, a popular tourist destination in northern England, a cab driver by the name of Derrick Bird drove around for 35 miles, casually gunning people down with his 12 gauge shotgun and .22 rifle. He managed to kill 12 innocent people and wound 25 others.

    The big problem here was, NOT ONE person could stop Derrick Bird. Not the police, not the public. Why? Because they were unarmed. Nobody had a gun or access to one that could be used to stop this slaughter. After Bird finished his shooting spree, he casually walked into a secluded area and shot himself. In one instance, Bird was in plain sight of two police officers who were scooting people out of the way and shouting at others to “take cover.” They could not stop him. Their batons and cans of pepper spray weren’t quite a match for Bird’s guns.

    So, just how many of the tens of thousands of UK citizens who owned handguns went on shooting sprees before they were stripped of their handguns in 1997? Only three. Yes, they were three too many, but enough for Tony Blair’s socialist government to disarm an entire nation of all handguns and rifles over .22 calibre. Ten years later in 2006, there were an estimated FOUR MIILION illegal guns circulating in the UK. Criminals between the ages of 15-24 can get access to Mac-10 sub-machine guns, Beretta pistols and replica weapons converted to fire live ammo. Also on the rise is the number of victims shot: Again, going back seven years, 440 people were seriously wounded by firearms in 2003/4, up five per cent from 2002. In the first six months of 2009, the number of shootings in London had almost doubled from 123 to 236 compared with the same period in 2008, a rise of 91.8%. Serious firearms offences have risen by 47% across London alone.

    Since 1996, gun crime has increased overall in the UK by 92%. Now we have huge areas of London, Manchester, Glasgow and Liverpool controlled by gangs armed with machine guns, fighting it out over turf and the drugs trade. Teenagers packing illegal handguns battle each other in “respect” shootings. In the meantime, coppers walk around unarmed while the rest of the country is left to cower in homes behind locked doors, burglar alarms and barred windows.

    For those “ban all guns” groupies who continue to believe that disarming law abiding citizens will somehow keep us all safe, they should listen to the number of 911 recording on YouTube by terrified women who were calling for help when stalkers, rapists and burglars were in the act of breaking into their homes. The police were too far away to get to the scene in time. All the women in question are all alive today because they had access to a gun in the house and were able to put a bullet in their attackers. In Canada, they would have been charged (maybe). Dead criminals are a much better solution, or rather criminals who are afraid to break into someone house, knowing that the owner coulder be armed and willing to shoot an intuder.

    When a citizenry is unarmed and therefore stripped of its ability to protect itself from violent criminals, then that citizenry is no longer free.

    The real solution is not more gun control, but crime control. It is far easier to strip law abiding citizens of their guns that go after the gangs and their Uzis. Socialists have never learned this lesson.

    As for “investing more in our youth,” what do you have in mind? More basketball courts and after school activities?

    Target all known criminals, take away their guns, throw the villains in prison for long stretches. And if they were born elsewhere – deport them.

  8. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu writes:

    Thanks Bill,

    Your persuasive horrifying scenarios are not likely to come about from the legislation I’m proposing.

    First of all you have to focus on what changes. A handgun ban for civilians does not affect police. In the UK, very few police have ever carried guns so the handgun ban had no effect on policing ability.

    Similarly, the handgun ban promoted for Canada would eliminate the sale of guns to civilians except in exceptional circumstances and would have no effect on use of guns by police. It would also have no effect on SWAT teams, who already use a variety of weapons that are prohibited for civilians.

    You are also mistaken when you say the police were unarmed. Some UK police are armed, and certainly when facing a known killer with a gun, it is the armed police that are sent out. The reason Derrick Bird was not stopped sooner had absolutely nothing to do with the weapons police were carrying. It had to do with the fact that they couldn’t find him.

    In fact, within the UK, the incident prompted calls for tightening the rules so that people like Derrick Bird could not get weapons, not a call for police to be armed.

    This stands to reason, since in 2008, gun deaths in the UK fell to a 20-year low of just 42 in a year. The UK has an annual gun fatality rate of just 0.46 per hundred thousand. Canada’s death rate from guns is more than ten times higher at 4.78 and the United States, with even more liberal guarantees for people to get guns for personal protection, has a mind-boggling death rate from guns of 15.22 per hundred thousand. Apparently the right to protect yourself with a gun carries with it a guarantee of a substantially higher risk of getting killed in spite of the weapons you can carry.

    Incidentally, although I am not promoting a ban on handguns for police, it’s important to note that in spite of the incident you bring up where unarmed police faced an armed opponent, the fact that UK police do not carry handguns is credited with the very low rate of police shootings. Criminals know that shooting a police officer is likely to be a great deal more trouble than running away. The situation is reversed when police are shooting at you. Your best chances lie with shooting back.

    I have met two former UK police who quit the force after guns were introduced for part of the force, precisely because they knew that as a result they would face greater dangers from some criminals firing at police not knowing whether they had guns or not. One of them was working as an unarmed security guard in Toronto when I met him over 20 years ago.

    And this kind of calculation should inform our policy throughout. Of course there will be incidents when people might have protected themselves with a gun. The important thing is to have a balanced policy that reduces deaths overall as much as possible.

    There is no evidence that keeping a gun in the house protects women from intruders. In fact, you’re almost five times more likely to be shot dead by an intruder if you have a gun in the house. Keeping a gun in the house also significantly increases the likelihood that someone in your family will commit suicide, and the likelihood that someone will die of an accidental shooting. And there is an increased likelihood for women that they will die at the hands of their spouses. I am a woman, and I’m very glad that I don’t have a gun in the house. There are risks either way, but the odds are definitely better for my family without a gun around.

    The policy I would promote would also protect women who face particular risks from a violent stalker. There are only a handful of such cases in the country and they are issued gun licences under very special rules, which I’d be happy to keep.

    The two categories of handgun licence I would eliminate are those for target shooters and those for collectors. Anyone who has a real need for a weapon should be able to get one.

    Thanks, Adriana

  9. Bill Gibbons writes:

    Hello Adriana,

    let me answer your points:

    Yes, you are correct. Britain has armed police, CO19 being London’s armed specialist unit, for example, as do most of our airports. The mass shooting in Cumbria could have been avoided if the local police had at least six firearms trained officers with independent access to an armoury in one or more of the Cumbria County police stations. Indeed, the specialist unit that was called out after Bird went on the rampage had to assemble in one location, sit through a briefing on the situation, and then go through multiple layers of authorization before they could even act. And, after going through all of this, they had to start tracking Derrick Bird down, by which time he had shot dead a dozen people and wounded 25 others. In the end, the Civil Nuclear Police, which are rountinely armed with Heckler & Koch G-36 assualt rifles, were called out to assist in the hunt. But it was all far too late by then.

    So what idf some UK coppers don’t want to be armed? Funny how literally hundreds of them who are completely dismayed by the death of traditional policing via the social engineering antics of Tony blair and Co., are now beating it to work in New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Countries, I might add, that have armed police services. And more UK coppers are still arriving in Canada.

    First off, I do not believe that Canada will benefit from more gun control. What we need is crime control. The Long Gun registry is a monumental failure. It has not stopped a single gun crime from occuring anywhere in Canada. So what if the police access the registry so many times a day. What does it tell the,? That the house they are about to approach over an unpaid parking fine is occupied by a duck hunter? Mind you, it’s a lot easier to place ever more restrictions on law abiding gun owners that it is to prosecute the Jamaican yardies in Toronto and take away their Uzi sub machine guns.

    Do you honestly believe that by banning handguns in canada you will protect women? And those ATC-3 permits you talked about are damned impossible to get if you are not a judge, a lawyer or a senior police officer. But hey, those law abiding target shooters are just a menace to society too, aren’t they? Here’s a better idea, let’s ban You cannot protect society by placing ever more restrictions on law abiding citizens. You only end up embolding the criminals – who do not care about the law – to do their worst.

    A citizenry that has been stripped of its ability to protect itself against violent criminals is a citizenry that is no longer free.

    But the criminals will still be free to do their worst.

  10. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu writes:

    Thanks Bill,

    It’s interesting to me that so much focus is put on weapons restrictions. I’ve succumbed to that myself at times, identifying myself with the camp that sees a value in stricter controls. However, I’ve always said that this has to be a small and less important part of a much broader programme which begins critically with investment in youth in at-risk areas.

    In an earlier post you mocked this approach, yet of all approaches to urban crime reduction, this is the one that has been shown to work best, and at least cost. I am talking about basketball courts, but not just basketball courts. I’m talking about encouraging and empowering community coordination between ecumenical groups, community centres, schools, local police that become familiar with the neighbourhoods, business improvement groups and so on. The goal is to surround youth at risk with a supportive and integrated community structure, and link them up with mentors who can reinforce and encourage activities which can lead to better life outcomes than crime.

    Beyond supporting youth at risk, the second most important approach is definitely to attack weapons that are already illegally entering the country, and that’s a higher priority for me than further gun restrictions. It is disgusting to me that the supposedly tough on crime Conservatives have shelved gun marking for the third time. This complicates tracing crime guns and makes it difficult to negotiate better border controls with the United States, which has a very good marking programme in place.

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