They did it with plastic bags, so why not bullets?
If Adam Vaughan has his way, city council is headed for a controversy that will dwarf last week's surprise prohibition on shopping bags. In the wake of the June 2 Eaton Centre shooting, which he says is merely the tip of the iceberg, the councillor is exploring a ban on the sale of ammunition within city limits.
It's just one option that has emerged from conversations he and Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam have had with the city solicitor on what council can do to make it more difficult for residents to buy, own, and use guns in Toronto.
"We're taking a look... and trying to make the sale of ammunition, the storage of handguns, everything to do with handguns, effectively illegal. Making it as hard to do, if not illegal to do, in Toronto," Vaughan says. "I've had it."
The city has limited options when it comes to regulating firearm activity, which mainly falls under federal and provincial jurisdiction. However, Vaughan believes zoning bylaws, which the city does control, could be used to outlaw the sale of ammunition or enact prohibitively strict controls on how gun collectors store their weapons.
A ban on handgun ammo could also affect rifle owners because, according to Vaughan, bullets used in long guns can sometimes be used in smaller weapons as well.
This is not the first time that highly publicized violence has prompted debate about gun control at City Hall. Following the so-called "Summer of the gun" in 2007, David Miller convinced council to ban firing ranges and restrict the manufacture of guns in the city.
But Miller's efforts fell short of what Vaughan is proposing. The councillor says he's looking into reviving several Miller-era initiatives that he believes staff never followed up on.
But even Vaughan's supporters have doubts about how far the city can go. Wong-Tam's exchanges with the city solicitor have led her to believe council can only do so much without support from other levels of government.
"I wouldn't say there's nothing the city can do, but certainly we'll have to have the cooperation of the federal government," she says.
Wong-Tam, who represents the ward that includes the Eaton Centre, envisions a more indirect approach that would see council work with other municipalities to ask Ottawa to enact a national handgun ban.
Tony Bernardo of the Toronto Shooting Sports Association is livid that councillors would suggest outlawing the sale of ammunition to legal gunowners. Under provincial law, anyone buying bullets has to have a valid firearms license and has their name, address, and type of ammunition recorded at the point of purchase. Bernando believes these controls are more than effective in ensuring that the ammunition doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
"For the ‘city fathers' of Toronto to go after legal, licensed sales of ammunition for hunters and target shooters, is absolutely reprehensible," Bernando says. "Because they can't control crime in their city, they're going to blame people who don't cause the crime? This is absolutely ridiculous. They should be ashamed."
To Bernando's knowledge, there are only a "handful" retailers and a single wholesaler who deal ammunition in the city.
Should Vaughan bring a gun control motion to council, it may find little support, particularly in light of a vote last month that reversed a decision made under Miller to banish the Toronto Sportsmen's Show from the CNE. Councillors who voted to re-admit the event in May justified their position by arguing, like Bernardo, that legal gun ownership has little to do with crime.
That was before the Eaton Centre shooting that killed two and injured six others put gun violence back on the front pages however.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, who staunchly opposed banning gun clubs and the original CNE decision, said Tuesday he's open to hearing suggestions Vaughan brings forward.
"I don't know what authority we do have to do some of these things," Holyday said. "But I would certainly be willing to listen to any proposal and get the staff input on it and the solicitor's input on it and go from there."