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Gun enthusiasts at the Toronto Sportsmen's Show at Exhibition Place in 2009. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Gun enthusiasts at the Toronto Sportsmen's Show at Exhibition Place in 2009. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Tempers flare as council debates firearms bylaw Add to ...

The Toronto Sportsmen’s Show will return to Exhibition Place next year after Toronto City Council voted to exempt the event from a bylaw prohibiting firearms on city-owned property.

The decision came after an emotional debate about gun control that reached its nadir when one councillor swore at another for saying residents of a violence-plagued neighbourhood don’t think a “fake” fight about the location of a hunting and fishing show helps curb gun crime.

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“They see this as a debate that makes downtown, I hate to say it, white people feel better that they’ve done something,” Councillor Josh Colle said.

Councillor Gord Perks, who earlier argued that the money Exhibition Place stands to make from the show isn’t worth budging on Toronto’s gun bylaw, swore at Mr. Colle for his statement. He later apologized.

The Toronto Sportsmen’s Show was exiled from Exhibition Place in 2010 after 62 years at the city-owned venue because mayor David Miller and the previous city council voted to ban guns on city property.

The show, which features a handful of booths displaying weapons that can’t be bought on site, moved to the provincially owned Metro Toronto Convention Centre, depriving Exhibition Place of $750,000 to $800,000 a year.

Many of the councillors who spoke in favour of maintaining the ban cited cases in which owners of legal rifles or shotguns killed their female partners.

Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, called that one of the “most ridiculous” things he’d ever heard at council.

“To even reference or think or imply that a couple will get in a fight and if the husband’s a gun owner he’s going to get the gun to kill her?” he said. “That was so insulting to every responsible gun owner in this country, in this city.”

After the vote, a pleased Mayor Rob Ford shook hands with Walter Oster, the chairman of Canadian National Sportsmen’s Shows, the non-profit organization that runs the Toronto event.

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