October 23, 2018 7:00 am

COMMENTARY: How could I vote for someone who doesn’t trust me?

In a media briefing Wednesday, Mayor John Tory said all levels of government are working together to reduce gun violence in Toronto, but that their won't be a "magic" fix.


I didn’t vote for anyone for mayor of Toronto or to serve as my local ward councillor, either. I showed up to vote — I always do, but I spoiled my ballot. It’s a shame. There was someone I trusted to make a good mayor. There was someone I trusted to make a good councillor for my ward, too.

But the problem is, they don’t trust me: I’m a handgun owner.

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I’ve known John Tory for years. I like the man. That’s not what politics is about, but the personal touch still matters, at least a little. I believe Tory is a decent man in public service for the right reasons. His time as mayor has been fine. He’s done decent job under sometimes difficult circumstances. I respect him and think he will continue to do a decent job. I know better than to ask much more than that from any elected official.

READ MORE: Toronto election results 2018

My local council incumbent was Jon Burnside. Burnside used to be the councillor for the city’s old Ward 26. He was running — against another incumbent, among others — in the new Ward 15. I don’t know Burnside well, personally, but he’s been a good councillor by my reckoning. I was feeling pretty good about voting for him. But then I didn’t.

I knew I wasn’t voting for Tory. He had held a sensible view on gun control for many years: he supported gun control, but not what he had previously — and rightly — dismissed as a pointlessly symbolic handgun ban. An “empty gesture,” he called it in 2014. It was something I liked very much about him. But he abandoned that position in recent months, frustrated after a spate of shootings in downtown Toronto. He told the Toronto Sun that he had heard from police that licensed owners were buying their guns on the legal market but selling them onto the black market. (You might recall that I looked into that claim in a previous post here and found it to be utter bunk.)

Burnside was smart about the issue, at first. Some of his council colleagues had proposed banning the sale of handguns and ammunition within the city limits — a ludicrously token gesture if I’ve ever seen one. Burnside rightly knew that was nonsense and voted against the motion — he was among only four who did. Off to a good start! But he later clarified that he wanted handguns banned outright in Toronto, not just their sale.

So much for that.

READ MORE: John Tory wins second term as mayor of Toronto

It’s a weird hill to die on, I grant. This is a fairly tertiary issue against the backdrop of the governance of a whole city. But it’s an important one for me. I find it’s a useful test case for a politician’s views: do they stand up for principles, even unpopular ones, or do they go with what’s popular? Tory and Burnside failed that test.

Of course, I concede my own personal interest. How could I not take this personally? The entire rationale for banning handguns is public safety — ban the guns because the gun owners can’t be trusted. There is no possible conclusion other than that Tory and Burnside — and way too many others — see me and those like me as the problem.

I’m not. I’m scrupulously law-abiding. I’ve gone through the careful screening and background check processes. I comply with all gun laws and regulations — even the stupid ones, and many Canadian gun control provisions are stupid — and have remained a citizen in good standing for the 15 years I’ve been licensed. You don’t have to take my word for it. As a restricted gun owner, my record is checked every day. Any changes in my legal eligibility status would be noted and, if warranted, my guns would be seized quickly. As required by law, my guns disabled by a trigger lock or via partial disassembly, and are secured inside a locked steel cabinet. My ammunition is stored separately. These things aren’t laying about for any wandering burglar to walk off with.

I’m not the problem. Neither are the 500,000 or so other Ontarians licensed to own handguns. And we’re getting tired of being treated like we are by politicians who would know better — who once knew better — but have decided to just give in to public pressure from those who know little about Canada’s existing gun control laws, and don’t care to learn. They don’t like guns; that’s enough for them.

WATCH BELOW: ‘I’m mad as hell’ — John Tory outlines his plan to fight gun violence

In the end, of course, Tory ended up getting re-elected in a gigantic landslide anyway; Burnside didn’t, losing to Jaye Robinson, the other incumbent in the newly merged ward. I can’t imagine Tory particularly cares that he lost my vote, and I’m not sure Burnside will regret his position, either — he didn’t lose because of little ole me. (Besides, Robinson also thinks I’m dangerous, so not really a win for me.)

Still, among all the other things I am, I’m a citizen just like any other. My vote is mine. I prefer, whenever possible, to actually vote for someone, not just against. I hate the feeling of voting simply to prevent a worse outcome. My ballot is my most critical investment in our democracy. I want it to be given to someone I actually believe will do right.

Tory and Burnside are decent men, and certainly trustworthy ones. I’d have been happy to vote for either if they thought the same of me.

Matt Gurney is host of The Exchange with Matt Gurney on Global News Radio 640 Toronto and a columnist for Global News.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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