Statement by Danforth Families for Safe Communities on the coming into force of a “Handgun Freeze”
On Friday, October 21, 2022, the Federal Government brought into force the previously announced freeze on any further purchase, importation or transfer of handguns by Canadians. The Danforth Families for Safe Communities (DFSC) is supportive of this action as a necessary step in the fight against gun violence.
DFSC stood with Minister Marci Ien (Women and Gender Equality and Youth), Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary Pam Damoff (Public Safety), and Member of Parliament Yvan Baker (Etobicoke-Centre), as well as representatives from the Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, and Mothers of Peace Regent Park, as this announcement was made at the St. Lawrence Community Centre in Toronto and echoed by other government officials and groups at other locations in Canada.
Members and families of DFSC experienced terror and tragedy from gun violence on a horrific night on July 22, 2018. It was a handgun that came to a retailer in one part of the country, that was stolen and used in Toronto to kill a girl, and a teenage woman, injure 13 others, and traumatize community members and witnesses.
It is through the lens of that experience, and then through our own subsequent findings as a grassroots group, that we have joined others in calling for a need for comprehensive action to reduce a growing gun violence problem.
It has given us no pleasure to conclude that the domestic source of legally imported and licensed handguns contributes significantly to the supply of guns used for violence and for homicides. As evidence, first of course we had our own sad experience where this was true. Second, we have become aware of reporting by accredited news agencies that have revealed many examples of lost, stolen, diverted, and straw-purchased guns, as well as licensed gun owners who have carried out the violence. We combine this anecdotal data to what StatsCan reports about crime guns. From a roll-up of police sources, In the report “Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2021”1, for those guns that were used in a homicide in 2021 and successfully traced back to the source, the number of guns traced to Canada was 2.5 times greater than the number traced to the U.S.
We are not critical of all gun owners or opposed to the law-abiding ownership of every kind of gun. Our group is made up of citizens with various levels of experience with firearms. But since we were all brought into this issue due to tragedy, we are troubled that gun violence and homicides by gun have continued to grow while the number of handguns in private hands has swelled. We agree that no one measure will be sufficient to combat this issue and we support Bill C21 because it is a wide-reaching bill; however, on this date, we acknowledge the significance of the announcement of the handgun freeze as part of the strategy to reduce gun violence.
As legislation proceeds, we urge the government to clarify and tighten three areas that could undermine the objectives of the handgun freeze:
· Clarify wording so that “elite sport shooter exemption” is only for the existing Olympic/Paralympic program and the weapons prescribed for those disciplines.
· Exclude that by default, gun ranges are part of the business exemption intended for security firms, preventing an accumulation and ongoing replenishment of weapons now held by individuals.
· Implement recommendation 27 from the report called “A PATH FORWARD: REDUCING GUN AND GANG VIOLENCE IN CANADA” - that firearms retailers should be required to confirm the validity of a gun holder license at the point of sale, in order to sell magazines, as they are required to do at present for ammunition. In our case, the non-licensed individual was able to buy magazines for his stolen Smith and Wesson M&P 40 from a gun retailer.
In the face of a problem that continues to grow, we ask the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) to complete its committee work with urgency and pass Bill C21 into law.