TORONTO — An Ontario Liberal government would ban handguns across the province in its first year in office, party leader Steven Del Duca announced Tuesday, though he offered few details of how that would be accomplished.
If the Liberals win the June 2 provincial election, Del Duca said he would ban the sale, possession, transport and storage of handguns.
“I believe that Ontario has a core moral responsibility to lead in this country as our country’s largest province and I don’t want to wait,” he said.
“Enough with the empty rhetoric in the empty words. We need action and we need it now.”
When pressed for specifics, Del Duca said he would work with the federal and municipal governments and will “examine every option” to be able to get it done as quickly as possible.
The Liberals are also promising to participate in a federal buyback program and partner with the federal government to stop guns being smuggled over the border, though Del Duca also didn’t offer specifics on how that pledge would be accomplished.
Premier Doug Ford has signalled opposition to banning handguns and Del Duca said violence using those weapons is ‘spiralling out of control“ under Ford’s government.
Toronto Police statistics show a decrease in shootings and handgun crimes over the past couple of years. In 2015, Toronto Police reported 233 gun crimes committed using handguns and that number grew – most quickly from 2017 to 2018, when it peaked at 489. That number has declined for the past two years, with 412 reported in 2020.
Shootings, specifically, peaked in 2019, when 284 people were killed or injured in the city. Last year that number was 209.
When asked Tuesday if a handgun ban would have any effect, when many crimes are committed using illegal weapons, Del Duca said even one handgun death is too many.
“Go and talk to the families of the two individuals who were murdered in Toronto a couple of weeks ago and cite statistics to them,” he responded.
“I’m here today to tell you that the choice is crystal clear. I, along with our team, will move heaven and Earth to stop the tragedies, the continual tragedies, the escalating tragedies that we see with respect to gun violence in this province.”
The NDP said party leader Andrea Horwath has long called for similar measures and criticized the Liberals for not implementing them during the 15 years they were in government.
PolySeSouvient, a group that includes students and graduates of Montreal’s Ecole polytechnique, where 14 women were gunned down in 1989, called the promise well-intentioned but said it’s not the way to achieve true gun control.
The burden of implementing a handgun ban should be at the federal level, the group said in a statement.
“Transferring the power to ban handguns to provinces would set a dangerous precedent related to delegating a central gun control measure to the provinces,” it wrote.
“What then of the safety of citizens residing in provinces that choose not use these powers? Worse, by provoking never-ending debates and proving to be ineffective if it is ever implemented, as guns can easily cross provincial borders, such a measure would undermine the achievement of truly effective federal controls on handguns for decades to come.”