Doug Ford wouldn't say on Wednesday whether or not a re-elected Progressive Conservative government on June 2 would ban handguns in Ontario if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government foots the bill, which it wants to do.
Instead, when pressed for a yes-or-no answer at a campaign event, Ford repeated statements he's already made, then stopped taking reporters' questions.
"We're doing everything we can to support our police to get the guns off the street, and we're just asking for support from the federal government to keep these guys in jail for a long period of time, and to support our Canadian border patrol officers, who are out there working their backs off, trying to keep the guns from coming into the country," Ford said.
The premier of Ontario — or any province — can't make the changes Ford wants. The federal government alone can beef up border security or increase jail time for people found guilty of gun crimes.
But the Trudeau government is more interested in banning handguns, and, to that end, it plans to encourage provinces to take the initiative.
Given the jurisdictional responsibilities of the two levels of government, it's murky how this would be done, however. Ontario could strengthen regulations governing to whom firearms and ammunition are sold and where they're used, as could municipalities, according to an analysis of the division of powers done for the City of Toronto.
Before Parliament was dissolved for last fall's federal election, the Liberals introduced a bill containing a provision that would have allowed municipalities to ban handguns by tying violations of bylaws prohibiting handguns to federal criminal charges. The bill didn't pass.
Prominent gun-control advocates also disapprove of a province-by-province approach, since handguns could still move freely across provincial borders.
"It's the federal government that holds the key to the proliferation of handguns in Canada," said Heidi Rathjen, a coordinator of PolySeSouvient (PolyRemembers in English), speaking to QP Briefing just over a month ago. Rathjen was a student at École Polytechnique in Montreal when 14 women were killed by a shooter in 1989.
Nevertheless, Trudeau's Liberals have promised $1 billion to provinces or territories that implement their own gun bans.
Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca has said that a provincial Liberal government would partner with its federal counterpart to enact a ban within one year.
The Ontario NDP says in its platform that an Andrea Horwath-led government would work with the other two levels of government to "create a provincial strategy to address gun violence." It would also fund initiatives "to address the root causes of gun violence," such as jobs, opportunities for youth, and affordable housing.
Events in Canada and the U.S. in recent days pushed the topic of gun violence onto Ontario's campaign trail. Two men were shot over the long weekend at Toronto's Woodbine Beach. On Tuesday, 21 people, including 19 children, were killed at an elementary school in Texas in the deadliest school shooting in the state's history.
Each of Ontario's four main party leaders, including Ford, have tweeted condolences to the victims of the Texas tragedy.
Speaking to reporters in Saskatoon on Wednesday, Trudeau repeated his intention to work with the provinces and territories to ban handguns.
His government will introduce "new steps in the coming weeks on gun control," he said.
Ford, and others who want to strengthen law enforcement, argue that one reason to invest more in policing to combat gun violence is that many guns are obtained illegally. Eighty-six per cent of guns used in crimes in Toronto in 2021 were illegally obtained, Toronto Deputy Police Chief Myron Demkiw told a parliamentary committee in February, and that number is climbing, he told the National Post.
PolyRemembers also believes more than one million handguns are legally registered in Canada. At the end of 2017, iPolitics reported that one-third of the 829,527 registrations of handguns in Canada used an Ontario address.