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The Globe and Mail

Bullet ban wouldn't curb Toronto gun violence: police chief

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair speaks at the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall where a shooting occurred, in Toronto, June 2, 2012. One man was killed and six other people were wounded by gunfire, two critically, in a shooting at Toronto's main downtown mall on Saturday, a rare occurrence of major gun violence in Canada's largest city.


A ban on bullets in Toronto would not help curtail the sort of gun violence that led to the Eaton Centre shooting, police Chief Bill Blair said Friday.

At an afternoon meeting of the civilian board that oversees Toronto's police force, Chief Blair gave a presentation on shootings and gangs in the city. Councillor Michael Thompson, a board member, asked him to weight in on an idea, proposed by Councillor Adam Vaughan, which would see the sale of ammunition outlawed in the city.

"I can understand the concern there, but I don't see that would be a solution to the problem," Chief Blair responded.

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Speaking with reporters after the meeting, the chief argued that most of the ammunition sold in Toronto is used in long guns, not the in the pistols favoured by street gangs. As such, banning the ammunition would make no difference, he said.

The chief also discussed the idea of banning handguns outright, which was floated under the previous council.

"In my perfect world, only the police would carry guns. And if no one else had them, the police wouldn't need them either," Chief Blair said. "But at the same time, I respect the right of people to own guns and the right of Parliament to legislate."

The comments were unusual for the chief, who usually declines to comment on political topics.

In his presentation to the board, he painted a picture of a city that is safer than it was in 2005, the year that saw a spike in shootings during the so-called "Summer of the Gun" and the death of Jane Creba, a 15-year-old girl killed in the crossfire after two rival factions pulled guns on each other on Yonge Street on Boxing Day.

The number of shootings and victims has steadily declined since then, Chief Blair said. He also listed off the force's various projects to stamp out the violence. The dismantling of downtown gangs has made traditional turfs more fluid and changed the nature of the shootings.

However, he said the city still had work to do to end the violence completely.

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Some of that work got underway Friday, as police in downtown's 51 Division and the west end's 14 Division launched Project Post. Officers will fan out across Regent Park and Alexandra Park, two public housing projects, over the summer to crack down on street-level crime, check on suspects out on bail and speak with citizens to get a sense of the nature of gangs in the area.

Police have said the man accused of opening fire in the Eaton Centre two weeks ago, Christopher Husbands, was a member of the same Regent Park gang as the two men killed, Ahmed Hassan and Nixon Nirmalendran. That gang has been identified by sources as the Sic Thugs, who have been locked in a rivalry with gangsters based in west end Alexandra Park.

Mr. Husbands was on bail, accused of sexual assault at the time of the shooting, and was supposed to be under house arrest in a Scarborough apartment.

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