The city of Toronto wants to pay you to surrender your firearm as a way of reducing the number of unwanted guns in the city.
“The message is simple – give up your guns,” Mayor John Tory said at a press conference on Friday morning.
“To anybody who has one, this is an opportunity to work with the police and to do it in, I think, the most favourable kind of circumstances to give up those guns.”
Under the gun buyback program, residents could receive as much as $350 for giving up their unwanted firearms to police.
Tory said he’s not suggesting that this program will eliminate gun violence in the city, but that it’s one part in a larger plan.
“It is one more step that we can take, it is a step that we should take, but it represents only a small part of a complicated series of measures that we’re taking – including investments in the police, including investments in kids and families, including changing some of our laws and making sure that the police have the resources and the tools needed to do their job,” he explained.
The positive message of the program was echoed by Toronto police chief Mark Saunders.
“It is a good day when we, the Toronto Police Service, and the City of Toronto can work together to make a difference, a difference that will help us work toward safer streets and communities for everyone in our city,” Saunders said.
He added that programs like this also work to strengthen the relationship between officers and community members.
“Both the police and the public are engaged in a common goal and are taking the steps to make the streets safer by removing unwanted hand guns and long guns,” he explained.
“One less gun off the street is a success. We need the help from the public in order to move towards this success.”
Saunders said sometimes people have guns they don’t want but they don’t know what to do with them so they put them in an unsecure place – such as unlocked kitchen cupboards and cabinets – which leaves those weapons vulnerable to possible criminal activity. This program would help get those guns out of those homes and possibly off the street.
To participate in program, people are asked call police at 416-808-2222 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and an officer will come to your home to pick up the gun. Police say you should not bring the guns to a police station. Residents can expect compensation within six to eight weeks.
The program pays out $200 for a long gun and $350 for a handgun.
No one who participates in the program will face charges for illegally possessing firearms or unsafe storage of a firearm that is turned over to police.
However, if tests determine that the gun was involved in criminal activity, an investigation will begin. Whether or not the person who turned over the weapon would face charges is not clearly explained in the release.
Toronto police say all firearms collected with be destroyed.
The last gun buyback program was offered in 2008. The mayor said over 2,000 guns were handed over at that time.
Tory has repeatedly called for a handgun ban in the city, particularly in the wake of a mass shooting in the Greektown neighbourhood that left two people dead.
Toronto recorded a record number of homicides last year, along with a major surge in gun-related crimes that saw police seize an unusually high number of handguns from city streets.
Saunders said in December that officers had recovered more than 500 handguns – or 222 more than in 2017 – and the number of homicides caused by shootings had gone up by nearly 30 per cent.
Saunders has said the surge in gun violence is his highest concern moving into 2019.