Toronto police collect 2,700 firearms through gun buyback program

Toronto police say they have received more than 2,700 unwanted guns from city residents through a gun buyback program that wrapped up Friday.

The program, which ran for three weeks, was one of a number of measures adopted by city council to address the problem of gun violence in Toronto.

In a news release, police said the number of guns this year is the largest collected through a gun buyback program in Toronto. Police collected more than 1,900 long guns and 800 handguns, all of which will be destroyed. 

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said the large number of guns collected is good news.

"We are pleased with the participation of Torontonians, taking steps to safely dispose of unwanted guns in their homes. These guns can present a potential danger if they fall into the wrong hands," Saunders said in a news release on Saturday. 

"Removing access to these guns, many of which are not securely stored, contributes to community safety." 

Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press

Toronto Mayor John Tory agreed, saying the program makes a difference. But Tory pointed out that more needs to be done to tackle gun crime and the program is only one measure.

"Gun violence remains a serious concern for both the community and law enforcement. We know ending gun violence will take a variety of measures. There is no one magic answer," Tory said.

"Every gun surrendered is one less gun in our community and one less gun potentially available to people who want to cause problems in our city." 

Residents got compensation for handing over guns

In July 2018, council adopted the "Immediate Steps to Address Gun Violence" report, which included a decision to establish a gun buyback program.

Under the program, funded by the city, Toronto residents asked the police to pick up registered or unregistered guns from their homes in exchange for compensation. The guns were collected with the understanding that they would be destroyed.

Residents received $200 for long guns and $350 for handguns.

Residents who turned over guns to police for destruction would not face charges for possessing or unsafely storing a firearm. Unlike some programs in the United States, handovers couldn't be anonymous.

Police offered similar compensation during a buyback program in 2008. That year they collected nearly 2,000 guns, 500 of which were handguns.   

They offered only $150 in a 2013 program and the number of guns they took in fell to 500. No money was offered in a 2015 buyback program, and police collected 150 guns.