Toronto’s board of health wants the Ontario government to ban the sale of handgun ammunition within the municipality, and for gun violence in the city to be treated as a public-health issue.
The proposal that city council ask the province to ban ammunition was among nine recommendations the board made at a meeting on Tuesday to help stop shootings.
While only the federal government can mandate a handgun ban, provinces have the power to limit ammunition sales, according to a Toronto city manager’s report published in May.
The recommendations also reiterate the city’s call to the federal government for a ban on handguns, military-style assault rifles and semi-automatic firearms, and urged the City of Toronto and Statistics Canada to collect better data on community violence.
City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who is vice-chair of the board of health, first proposed an ammunition ban in March, 2018. City council has asked the Ontario government for such a ban several times, most recently in June.
Several of the recommendations would address the public-health issues behind gun violence.
“If we don’t get to the root of what causes violence and despair, we will not be able to get ourselves out of the situations that we’re in,” Ms. Wong-Tam said before the meeting.
“My concern is to ensure that people who are vulnerable, at risk or living with mental illness do not have access to firearms, regardless of whether they were legally obtained or not.”
Earlier this year, a Globe and Mail investigation found that a ban on military-style assault rifles, a key part of the Liberal Party’s federal election platform, would do little to curb gun violence, because handguns are by far the most common type of firearm used in shootings.
During the health board meeting, firearms industry representatives pushed back on the recommended bans.
Alison de Groot, a spokesperson for the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association, a consumer firearms industry group, told The Globe she was “surprised to see a government body taking such an activist role.”
Ms. de Groot said an ammunition ban would present a problem. “There is no such thing as handgun ammunition,” she said. For instance, some types of rifles can use the same ammunition as some handgun models.
Two of Canada’s largest gun businesses, Al Flaherty’s Outdoor Store, and importer and distributor North Sylva Co., are in Toronto.
“These two businesses would not be able to be located in the city of Toronto,” Ms. de Groot said.
Ken Price, a member of Danforth Families for Safe Communities, said in an interview that dealing with gun violence must be approached much like smoking once was: as a multidecade public-health endeavour.
Mr. Price’s daughter was among 13 people injured in a shooting on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue in 2018 that also killed two people.
“In our situation, I feel like the perpetrator was a marginalized person who did not fit in and filled his heart full of hate,” Mr. Price said.
“I certainly am not going to apologize for his actions, but reading the police report, you realize this is a guy that skipped from one agency to another. His story is a little bit heartbreaking up until the moment he made the choice he did, which is unforgivable,” he said.
“It’s not just an issue of whether he got the gun," Mr. Price added. "It’s what led him to conclude that was the right thing to do.”
Toronto’s city council will consider the health board’s recommendations on Nov. 26.