Toronto Police Services announced last week that between April 26 and May 17, 2019 they will be buying back unwanted guns from residents in an effort to reduce unwanted firearms and violence in the city.
Last year was a particularly violent one in Toronto with 406 shooting incidents, resulting in 540 shooting victims and 50 homicides by gunfire.
Durham region also experienced a trend of increasing violence. It has been reported that there was a 27% increase in gun discharges and an increase in non-fatal shootings by 113% in 2018. Almost half of the shootings occurred in west Durham, which includes Ajax and Pickering.
Durham Police Chief Paul Martin stated his concern for “the number of guns we are seizing and the number of guns being used in crimes”. Chief Martin confirmed that many of the firearms used in these crimes were associated with gang activity and are typically smuggled in from the United States, stolen from legal Canadian owners, or obtained legally with legitimate licences and then sold to others who intend to use them for criminal purposes.
TORONTO GUN BUYBACK PROGRAM
According to Chief Mark Saunders, Chief of Police of the Toronto Police Service, Toronto’s gun buyback program “is a great opportunity for Torontonians to get rid of unwanted guns from their homes that present a potential danger if they fall into the wrong hands”.
Toronto residents can arrange for police to pick up a registered or unregistered gun for destruction and will be compensated $200 for a long gun and $350 for a handgun. Those that turn guns over to the police will not face any charges for possession or the unsafe storage of a firearm.
Toronto Police advise that individuals should not bring guns to a police station or any City facilities. In order to participate in this buyback program and arrange for an officer to pick up a firearm at your home, please call the Toronto Police non-emergency line at 416-808-2222 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Toronto police will test all firearms suspected of being involved in criminal activity collected through this initiative. Those that have not been found to be involved in any criminal activity will be destroyed.
Toronto Police advise that a similar gun buyback program took place in 2008 and Toronto Police received 2,000 guns.
ONTARIO’S GUNS AND GANGS INITIATIVE
In addition to the federal government’s contribution of $11.37 million in funding over the next two years towards initiatives to reduce gun and gang crime, the government of Ontario recently announced contributing $16.4 million towards efforts to combat guns and gangs over the next two years.
Part of the focus will be on providing resources and tools to support frontline police officers, law enforcement teams and prosecutors in an effort to combat gun and gang-related violence. The emphasis will also be on initiatives to prevent crime and break the criminal cycle by focusing efforts on high-risk communities and youth.
The initiatives planned include:
- Creating a guns and gangs enforcement unit to help local police and prosecutors through the use of province-wide intelligence gathering, integration and coordination;
- Improved training for corrections officers to secure better intelligence to deal with gangs and contraband smuggling taking place in jails;
- Creating “justice centres” in three cities (Toronto’s downtown East and Northwest neighbourhoods, London, and Kenora) to focus on prevention of gang activities by coordinating law enforcement and justice representatives with health and social services, and moving the justice process out of the courtroom and into a community setting;
- Examining current discipline practices and data in 10 school boards (14 schools) to address the over-representation of certain individuals involved in suspension and expulsion;
- Creating the “Youth Violence Prevention and Resilience Program” to support high-risk youth and young adults and their families in an effort to reduce youth violence, victimization and keep youth out of gangs;
- Launching the “Indigenous Youth Prevention and Intervention Program” to focus efforts on keeping Indigenous youth out of gangs; and
- Creating the “Gang Intervention and Exit Program for Indigenous Women” to provide community outreach, education and support to victims of gang violence and the prevention of exploitation, recruitment and victimization of Indigenous women and girls.
Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, stated:
We want youth at risk of coming into conflict with the law to build resiliency and gain important skills that will help them throughout their life. We want to work with out partners to provide programs that strengthen communities, create safe neighbourhoods and set up all of Ontario’s youth for success.
We will continue to follow these police and government initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence in our communities and will report any developments as they become available in this blog.
If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.