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Statement on the federal government’s plan to fund provincially-based hand gun regulations

Media reports are surfacing that the federal government is moving ahead with their flawed plan to ban possession and storage of handguns on a province-by-province basis, and/or allow cities to do the same. This regional approach to dealing with a national problem - violence created using handguns - is a hangover from Bill C-21, introduced in the last parliament.

At the time of Bill C-21’s introduction last February, the Danforth Families for Safe Communities (DFSC) issued a statement, from our perspective, as survivors and families directly affected by gun violence.

The scope of Bill C-21 is broad and touched on several important topics, including:

· gun control policy for handguns and assault rifles

· preventing the use of guns as a tool for terror or harm, especially toward women

· the illegal flow of guns from smuggling, and diversion from legal sources

· “red flag” laws and regulations to remove weapons from those who show signs of violence, or express hatred toward groups of people

· limits to ammunition and magazine capacity

· resources for programs for youth, living in underserved communities, who are at risk of being recruited by “gangs” or turning to crime as a way of life.

Last February, DFSC, along with other victim’s groups, said that the bill had merit in its scope, but it fell short on two of the most critical issues: the control of handguns and [TG1] the removal of prohibited, assault style rifles.

During the federal election, the Liberals corrected their approach on assault-style rifles and confirmed that owners of these now-prohibited and recklessly over-specified guns would need to either, accept a buy back, or render them permanently inoperable if retained.

Regarding handguns, we would be extremely disappointed if the new Minister for Public Safety is advocating the same flawed position for handguns as was contained in the bill. Abdicating to the provinces (or municipalities) to create legislation that is of concern to the majority of all Canadians in all provinces, will create a patchwork. Alberta and Saskatchewan have already passed legislation to reinforce that handguns will continue to be in the hands of private citizens. Ontario’s Premier has made public comments that suggest the same will be true for Ontario.

The Honorable Mr. Mendicino, in remarks made earlier today to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, referenced the July, 2018 incident on the Danforth. Yet, our experience provides an example of the flawed thinking behind creating a patchwork system. For example, if governments in Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan have the same status quo approach that has allowed handgun numbers in homes to swell (and with it incidents of lost and stolen guns) how does that help Quebec, for example, if they take this issue on? The gun used on the Danforth was stolen in Saskatchewan but used in Toronto years later. If handguns were not sold to private citizens, then the Smith and Wesson M&P 40 that was used that terrible night would not have been on that retail shelf. Nor would the approximately 8,925 restricted weapons that were reported as lost or stolen as of 20171, which by definition have fallen into criminal hands.

Often when discussing the issue of banning handguns, cost comes up. Even setting aside the cost and strain to public health for each disaster created for families who are victims of handgun violence, the argument goes: if we ban all the handguns and buy them back – that would be hugely expensive. Well, there are about a million handguns out there. As an example, the market value of this pre-owned M&P 40 complete with night sites, holsters, magazines and a hard case is about $1,000. Using this simple example, that same billion dollars being offered by the federal government to try and ban handguns in some provinces or cities, gets a million handguns like the one used on the Danforth, or a large chunk of them, out of circulation.

Whether a buy-back is the way to go can be determined in time. As an immediate first step, this federal government could enact a freeze on the issuance of any new RPALs for handguns, since the growth of gun violence on our streets has coincided with the growth of handguns in private hands, since 2015. At the same time, the federal government could stop the importation of any new handguns destined for a retail/consumer market. By so doing, they would stop adding to the handgun problem. The most effective use of a billion dollars, if not to remove existing handguns from circulation, can be discussed across all stakeholders, in order to fairly and reasonably achieve the orderly removal of privately held handguns over time.

The current proposal is inconsistent with the needs of the nation. Recently, Montreal Mayor Valerie LaPlante reiterated her call for a national ban on handguns and assault-style weapons. In addition to the gun violence reported in Montreal in recent weeks, the problem in Toronto continues since our families’ tragedy in 2018, and Mayor Tory has been a consistent advocate for a national ban on handguns. Testimony by MPs at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security Committee, today, reinforced that handgun violence is felt in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and elsewhere. Gun violence must certainly be addressed with national approaches.

We are encouraged that the federal government is continuing to work on a comprehensive strategy for reducing violence related to guns. However please amend your approach and retain a national policy on handguns. We stand in solidarity with other victims of gun violence, and other MPs in the Liberal caucus, who are making the same request.

DFSC is a group of survivors, families, friends and community members impacted by the shooting tragedy on Danforth Avenue, Toronto, Canada, on July 22, 2018, where a young girl and a teenager were killed and 13 were shot by a lone gunman. The DFSC have come together in the wake of our tragedy to share our views and experience, in the hope that others will not have to experience anything similar.




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