Three-hundred and twenty-six people who have been charged with firearms-related offences are free on bail in Toronto as of Friday, according to Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders.
In a press conference addressing the city’s recent gun violence, Saunders revealed the shocking number, and said he hopes to establish a better relationship with the courts.
“What we’re hoping to do is establish a stronger relationship with our courts,” he said. “We need that deterrent factor because a lot of people are in possession of firearms right now.”
Saunders said that the Toronto Police department has seized 536 guns to date, and continue to make arrests. They have laid thousands of charges, and the rise of the violence is attributed to street gangs.
“People are not born to be street gang members, they become,” said Saunders.
He said there are more firearms out there as most street gangs carry them to protect themselves, but gun laws are federal, and bail is a concern.
- 16-year-old killed in overnight North York shooting identified by police
- Multiple people suffer gunshot injuries over long weekend in Toronto
- Toronto police collect over 3,100 guns through 3-week buyback program
Saunders said that Toronto can’t be compared to any other city in Canada when it comes to firearms.
“If we have some sort of amendment or some sort of understanding in the courts because you can be sitting court in Toronto, but your benchmark is on what’s going on in Canada, so it’s hard for a judge to say ‘because this is Toronto, so I have to do this,’ because that judge is measured across what all of Canada is doing,” Saunders explained.
Mayor John Tory said the information provided by Chief Saunders today highlighted that there are issues surrounding the current bail and court systems.
“I join the chief in urging our court system to understand the impact that gun offences are having on our community,” Tory said in a statement. “Repeat gun crime offenders should be dealt with placing community safety first. There should be no bail on a repeat charge. There should be no leniency on sentencing or parole for repeat offenders convicted of gun crimes.”
Tory has been in discussions with federal and provincial leaders about addressing gun violence over the last several days. He said he hopes the discussions can change to further action in the “very near future.”
“While I continue to believe even stricter gun control domestically along with tightening our border to smuggled guns is necessary and will make a positive difference in fighting gun violence, it is also high time we saw some further co-operation from within the justice system,” he said.
“I will continue to advocate for these changes to the law as I have been doing for many months now, and equally important I continue to work hard, with the chief and with the other governments to implement further initiatives which can keep our communities safe and keep guns away from communities and keep kids in particular away from gangs and guns.”
Chief Saunders said that homicide numbers are down this year compared to this time last year. There have been 35 homicides in Toronto so far, compared to 59 last year, he said.