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Toronto police have launched a gun buyback program they hope will reduce the number of unwanted firearms in the city.

Chief Mark Saunders says he believes the program, which will run until May 17, will help combat violence.

Mayor John Tory says the initiative is in response to a marked increase in gun violence last year and notes that a buyback program in 2008 brought in 2,000 guns.

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Mr. Tory has repeatedly called for a handgun ban in the city, particularly in the wake of a shooting rampage in Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood that left two people dead last year.

Chief Saunders said in December that officers had recovered more than 500 handguns in 2018 – 222 more than the previous year – and the number of homicides caused by shootings had gone up by nearly 30 per cent.

The buyback program offers $200 for a long gun and $350 for a handgun. The firearms will be picked up by police, and participants will not face a charge for possessing or unsafely storing a firearm.

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