Toronto Mayor John Tory is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to revoke bail opportunities for repeat gun offenders.
The request is one of several made by Tory in an Aug. 3 letter to the prime minister that outlines the mayor’s vision for gun violence prevention.
Tory is also calling on Trudeau to enact a handgun ban in Toronto, crack down on cross-border gun trafficking and introduce tougher sentences for gun traffickers.
“It is my job to make sure we don’t just talk about banning handguns and strengthening our laws, but that we actually ban handguns and we actually strengthen those laws,” Tory wrote in the letter.
So far this year, 30 people have been killed in shootings in Toronto. There have been a total of 233 shootings, according to Toronto police statistics.
Tory’s request would see repeat gun offenders held in custody until the charges are “disposed of by the judicial system.”
“I have heard from frontline constables and our police chief how frustrated they are by the fact someone they arrest for a gun crime who already had a criminal record or similar offences, or who was already out on bail on a similar charge, can almost immediately be back out on the street on bail,” Tory wrote.
Tory said that granting bail may still be appropriate for some first-time offenders who have a better chance at diversion and rehabilitation.
However, some community members say Tory’s proposal is misguided and potentially damaging.
“Essentially, toughening up bail conditions is only going to exacerbate social inequality in the city of Toronto,” said Saron Gebresellassi, a Toronto lawyer and mayoral candidate.
Gebresellassi, who has represented clients accused of gun violence, said tougher bail conditions will not accomplish the ultimate goal of reducing shootings.
Ending gun violence, she added, requires long term commitments to address unemployment and poverty in marginalized communities.
“Focusing on gun violence is almost focusing on the symptom, when the real problem is lack of employment and concentrated poverty,” said Paul Bailey, a community and anti-gun violence advocate.
“We’re not going ‘lock up’ our way out of this issue,” he added.