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Toronto city council debates motion that would undo gun-range ban

City Council met behind closed doors on Thursday to debate an on-the-fly motion that could undo the gun-range ban championed under former mayor David Miller.

While the details of the motion remain confidential, several councillors said it could overturn a bylaw that regulates shooting ranges and firearm manufacturing within city limits.

"It strikes down our bylaw that restricts the sale and use of guns in this city," said Councillor Adam Vaughan. "That's unacceptable."

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Council passed the ban in 2008 after the death of innocent bystander John O'Keefe, allegedly killed by a semiautomatic weapon.

"After John O'Keefe's tragic killing, I don't think there is any defence for sports shooters any more," Mr. Miller said at the time. "It is a hobby that creates danger to others."

Two groups, the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and the Movie Armaments Group, appealed the ban before the Ontario Municipal Board.

The Movie Armaments Group settled their appeal last year, when council exempted film production activities from the gun bylaw.

The CSSA has recently submitted a confidential settlement offer, which councillors agreed to debate under the aegis of an urgent OMB matter on Wednesday. But only on Thursday morning did they find out the matter pertained to gun bylaws. Councillors Gord Perks said the maneuver abrogated councillors' authority.

"We were not told that we were effectively abandoning the city's bylaw on firearms control," Councillor Gord Perks said of the motion introduced by Councillor Peter Milczyn.

Tony Bernardo, executive director of the CSSA, confirmed that the organization's settlement offer would lift the gun-range ban in select regions of the city.

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"I hope that sanity prevails," he said of the confidential debate. "These are not places where gangbangers go to train; these are places where Olympians go to train."

Mr. Bernardo said that the ban had put several ranges out of business and that the association has been battling the bylaw using the precedent of Lacombe vs. Quebec, which states that municipal bylaws should not impair federally regulated activities.

"Because our facilities our federally regulated," said Mr. Bernardo, "the city should not be able to bylaw us out of existence."

But Mr. Vaughan, citing the case of John O'Keefe, said "if the OMB wants to make guns easier to shoot in this city, easier to buy in this city, they can go screw themselves."

"If this bylaw stops one bullet from flying in this city, it is an appropriate bylaw," he added.

Council concluded private debate on the matter Thursday afternoon and will bring it to a public vote later in the council meeting.

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About the Author
National reporter

Patrick previously worked in the Globe's Winnipeg bureau, covering the Prairies and Nunavut, and at Toronto City Hall. He is a National Magazine Award recipient and author of the book Mountie In Mukluks. More

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