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Tougher gun laws needed: Tory

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OTTAWA—The mayor of Canada's biggest city is stressing the need for more money and stronger laws to fight the scourge of gang-related gun violence.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said yesterday that while Canada generally has tight controls on firearms, there are “some holes that exist in that system.”

Measures should be toughened to ensure authorities are notified when gun traffickers make repeat purchases of firearms that end up being sold to criminals who kill, Tory told a national conference on guns and gangs.

“When people are buying multiple guns in any number at all, there should be a red flag,” he stressed.

Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale convened the meeting of government, police, community, and indigenous representatives against the backdrop of some troubling statistics.

The number of firearm-related homicides in Canada hit 223 in 2016—up 44 from 2015 and the third-straight annual increase.

There were 141 gang-related homicides in 2016, 45 more than the previous year.

Meantime, break-and-enters to steal guns have been rising.

The federal government has earmarked more than $327 million over five years, and $100 million a year thereafter, to address criminal gun and gang activities.

The government also is preparing legislation to strengthen controls on the movement, licensing, and tracing of firearms—measures that would repeal some elements of a bill passed by the previous Conservative government.

One of the common messages to emerge from yesterday's meeting was the need for a collaborative effort, Goodale told a news conference.

“Co-ordination is absolutely essential here,” he stressed.

Rob O'Reilly, interim director of firearms regulatory services at the RCMP, told the meeting about the dark, hidden corners of the internet where high-powered weapons can be purchased anonymously.

Conservative MP Glen Motz, a conference attendee, expressed concern about the trend.

“You can go on the web right now and you can order almost anything you want, and it's delivered to your door,” he noted.

Tory said he hopes some of the new federal money will find its way to Toronto and other cities to help with “staying ahead of the bad guys on the internet, or even giving us the tools to have a fair fight with them.”

He praised a program in suburban Scarborough that's trying to steer kids clear of gangs, but with federal financial support that could run out after August.

“There are people in this room from that organization who are uncertain as to whether that funding is going to be continued,” he noted.

The idea is to get the federal money to where the problems are “most acute” while respecting different regional needs, Goodale said.

He also stressed the importance of healthy communities that make vulnerable young people less susceptible to the “insidious lure” of gang activity.

The government must update the law to ensure police have “timely and consistent” access to telecommunications subscriber information, as well as the ability to intercept messages and calls in the age of strong encryption, said Mario Harel, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

“This is critical to maintaining the ability of law enforcement to investigate gangs and other criminal organizations,” he noted.

Goodale indicated such legislation would not come soon, pointing to the complexity of the issue as well as privacy concerns.

A change the federal government has been mulling would allow authorities to more quickly identify people considered unfit to have guns for reasons such as mental instability or violent behaviour, an internal memo shows.

The Liberals are planning to introduce legislation in coming weeks to fulfil platform promises on firearms—including a requirement for “enhanced background checks” for anyone seeking to buy a handgun or other restricted gun.

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