Health-care professionals rallied throughout the country on Wednesday as a part of a “national day of action” calling for stricter gun control laws in Canada.
Sixteen rallies were organized by Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG), an organization founded by Dr. Najma Ahmed, a surgeon who was working at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital at the time of the Danforth mass shooting last summer.
“Make no mistake – Canada needs stronger gun laws and we have a way to go to catch up the rest of the world,” Ahmed said in a statement.
“A now abundant and international body of medical evidence shows that reducing access to guns through regulations saves lives and decreases the burden of injury … We do not have to wait for another tragedy to act.”
Ahmed began to call for gun control measures following the Danforth shooting on July 22, 2018 which saw 2 people killed and 13 others injured. Ahmed founded CDPG earlier this year.
WATCH: Health professionals stage protests across Canada calling for stronger gun laws
“We must utilize proven public health approaches to reduce the burden of injuries and deaths from guns,” Ahmed said.
CDPG is calling on the federal government to pass Bill C-71, which is before the Senate and would enact gun control measures.
The organization, comprised of trauma surgeons, nurses, emergency room physicians, paramedics, and other health-care professionals, is also calling for a ban on handguns and assault rifles, which is not included within Bill C-71.
In Toronto, dozens of health-care professionals gathered near St. Michael’s Hospital at noon to protest the current laws.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, who has been calling on the federal government to implement a handgun ban since the Danforth shooting last summer, also met with CDPG in the afternoon.
WATCH: Doctors from the Montreal General Hospital took to the streets on Wednesday to raise awareness over what they call a growing public health crisis. As Global’s Phil Carpenter explains, the doctors say urgent action is needed to tackle gun violence before it gets worse.
Similar rallies were scheduled in fifteen other cities including Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Vancouver.
CDPG sent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a letter in conjunction with the rallies Wednesday, where the group reiterated its views.
“I am asking you Prime Minister, to demonstrate courage and take decisive action to protect the safety of Canadians,” the letter said. “I urge your government to pass Bill C-71 and to implement a ban on handguns and assault-style weapons quickly.”
But news of the rallies drew sharp criticism from gun rights advocates.
“In my opinion, it’s completely misguided,” said Tracey Wilson, vice president of public relations for the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights. “The focus needs to be on gangs, on the drug trade, on the root causes of violence … None of these measures even touches the criminal element.”
Wilson said implementing a gun ban would only harm legal firearm owners who do not commit the majority of gun crimes.
“These rallies are solely focused on the banning of legal firearms by RCMP-vetted firearms owners,” she said.
According to the 2017 RCMP Commissioner of Firearms Report, there are over 900,000 registered restricted firearms in the country, which include handguns and semi-automatic rifles.
There are also over 180,000 registered prohibited guns in Canada, which include certain handguns and even fully automatic weapons, but have “grandfathered privileges” since the laws banning them came into effect.
WATCH: Gun control debate following Danforth mass shooting