Toronto's chief of police is calling for tougher penalties for people who are charged with murder stemming from a shooting in a public place, after police announced a series of gun-related charges at a news conference Monday.
Six people are facing dozens of charges after 62 guns were seized several months ago as part of an investigation into what officers are calling an "armed criminal group suspected of firearms trafficking" in the city.
Police say officers started their investigation in the fall of 2021, and in late May of this year, investigators carried out search warrants that led to six arrests and 260 criminal charges, alongside the seizure of 62 firearms. Police said it took this long for the charges to be announced given the "magnitude" of the investigation.
"While we are here to show the public the results of a successful investigation, this is by no means a good news story," said James Ramer, who is doing the job on an interim basis, at the news conference.
"While it represents outstanding police work, we should all be disturbed by a gun seizure of this magnitude.
"Gun violence continues to be the most significant public safety concern for the people of Toronto. Why? Because our youth are dying over this issue. Shootings devastate families and erode the sense of security for entire communities."
Police say the 62 guns they seized include five "AR-15-type firearms" and "three AK-type firearms." Six people now face firearms-related charges — and one man has also been charged in connection with a shooting in the Queen Street West and Portland Street area in October of 2021.
Ramer said police are also advocating for "bail reform and other legislative changes" to try to fight gun violence, including:
Making sure bail hearings for serious firearm offences are heard by a judge in order to "hold the most high-risk offenders more accountable for their dangerous actions."
Amending Canada's Criminal Code so when a person uses a gun in a public setting "surrounded by innocent people," that person can be charged with first-degree murder if someone is killed.
And a "commitment to ongoing funding" at border crossings. Police said Monday the majority of the guns seized as part of this case came from the United States.
When asked about Ramer's comments Monday, Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino thanked police for their work on the investigation.
"It is the guns that they seized … that have no place in our communities," Mendicino said.
The minister also said in the last two years, the federal government has allocated $450 million to the Canada Border Services Agency, "which will make sure that they have the state-of-the-art technology that they need to stop illegal gun smuggling at our borders."