The gun violence in Toronto during the Civic Holiday long weekend that saw 17 people shot during 14 separate incidents is “heartbreaking,” Mayor John Tory said Tuesday.
“It’s frustrating because we are doing a lot to try and get at it,” Tory told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.
He said police resources have been beefed up in response to the violence, echoing remarks by police Chief Mark Saunders on Monday, but didn’t give specifics. Tory also called for stricter gun control and tougher sentences for gun-related crime.
“I’ve come to realize that there is no magic answer to this,” he said.
“So when this kind of thing happens in a concentrated way, it’s very frustrating, angering and sad. And bottom line, unacceptable.”
The most significant shootings were at the District 45 nightclub in suburban North York, where at least five people were injured, and at an Airbnb in the swanky Bridle Path neighbourhood where a man was left with life-threatening injuries.
Tory has pushed for a handgun ban, saying it would help address some of the city’s gun violence. City council debated a handgun ban in June, but it would require action by both the federal and provincial governments.
“If we have a choice of doing absolutely everything we can to stem this type of violence, then I do believe a handgun ban would make some difference, if it would stop a handful of the shootings and certainly any of the deaths that we see,” the mayor said.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told CBC News that Canadians will soon see a “strong and effective” package of proposals from Ottawa, but wouldn’t say whether a proposed ban would be included.
Stronger background checks, licence verification, better record-keeping, and a significant investment in a strategy to fight guns and gangs are some of the measures the federal government has already taken to curb gun violence, he said at a news conference Tuesday in Ottawa.
Over $50 million is going to the Canada Border Services Agency to help intercept smuggled weapons, along with another $25 million incrementally for the RCMP to deal with so-called straw purchasing (using a firearms licence to obtain weapons intended for the black market) and illicit tracking systems, Goodale said.
Marion Ringuette, spokesperson for the office of Ontario’s solicitor general, said the Progressive Conservative government is “greatly concerned” about the violence, but favours stopping the flow of illegal guns over an outright ban.
“Our focus is on action that makes a meaningful impact in reducing illegal gun and gang violence,” Ringuette said in a statement.
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack says the weekend’s spate of shootings indicates a “new normal” for Toronto, with gun-related violence on the rise.
“This is not a blip, it’s not a spike,” he told CBC News on Tuesday.
According to statistics by the Toronto Police Service, the number of shooting incidents in Toronto in 2018 was two and half times more than in 2014.
There needed to be a substantial plan and real concentrated effort to stop the violence, and we’re past the point of political rhetoric, said McCormack.
“This is gun violence which we have seen increase and sustain itself in new numbers, this is about a gun culture which has been allowed to infect the city because the police and the community can’t do anything about it.”
Tory’s intentions regarding banning handguns were positive, but the police community doesn’t see it as something that would work to reduce violence, he said.
On Monday, Saunders told a news conference the nightclub shooting in particular was “very bothersome,” with shell cases found inside and outside the club.
“I find it disturbing that you have 100 people in a club and someone pulls out a gun.”