Al Flaherty’s Owner on Possible Gun Bans: ‘We Are Not Moving’ — Al Flaherty’s Outdoor Store, the last gunshop in Toronto, was uniquely targeted last week by a City Council motion to ban the sale of handguns in Canada’s largest city. Following is an interview with Domenic Saverino, the store owner, about the vote and a possible ban on handguns across the country.


  • July 22: A man described by his family as having “severe mental health challenges” and who illegally obtained a handgun shoots 2 people dead and injures 13 others on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue.
  • July 24: Toronto Mayor John Tory leads City Council in landslide votes to pass two motions asking the federal government to:
    • 1. Ban the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition in Toronto to everyone with a federal firearm licence, and
    • 2. Ban all handguns and semi-automatic firearms from everyone in Canada with a federal firearm licence.
  • July 26: The Globe and Mail, citing an unidentified senior official, reports that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will decide in mid-August whether to ban handguns from everyone in Canada with a federal firearm licence.
  • July 27: The government says it’s “open to all possible options.”

Al Flaherty’s is the last remaining gun store in Toronto and one of the largest independent firearm retailers in Canada.

Saverino spoke with by telephone and e-mail last week. The interview was edited for clarity.

How have you been affected by all this talk of gun bans?

We’ve fielded countless calls from people fearing that the government is going to take their guns away.

I’ve been fielding calls from angry people and concerned people who feel threatened. They feel their rights as gun owners are being threatened.

There’s misinformation and fear.

We’ve also received a tremendous amount of support from people on social media, Reddit, Facebook. People are worried about our business not being around much longer.

We have also received hateful emails from people we have never met — people saying that our business should not operate in Toronto. One anti-gun e-mail said that the only thing to hunt in the city is men, women and children. Of course, this is extremely disturbing.

How’s the mood in the city?

The temperature in Toronto is quite hot, because of the nature of this recent crime.

Families want to go out for dinner and have a nice time in the city, but some of them may now be worried about being attacked by a stranger with psychological issues.

People want to feel safe in our community. And it is a safe city. With the crime this week, some people are feeling less safe. It was similar with the van murders this spring. That also shocked everyone.

What’s it like to be the target of the Toronto City Council motion to ban handguns in the city?

It’s been a very challenging week for us, to say the least.

Our store — as the only gun store in the City of Toronto — is being singly attacked as a scapegoat for a terrible crime that couldn’t have been prevented by any kind of a ban on legal gun ownership or by any by-law against the legal sales of guns or ammunition.

Legal gun owners feel they are becoming the scapegoat of this senseless crime, and John Tory and City Hall are responsible for that. They are pointing fingers at law-abiding citizens rather than focussing on criminals and the signs of potential crimes.

It’s taking the focus of the real issues.

How credible are the City Council motions, given that we’re heading into a municipal election campaign?

If the city succeeds in setting a by-law against us, it could set a precedent across the country.

It’s a very dangerous precedent for the gun industry as a whole that they are entertaining this motion.

If City Hall outlaws handgun sales in Toronto, then Montreal may follow suit. Quebec City may also follow suit. Anywhere there’s been an influx of crime, they may follow suit. Then the provinces. And then we could end up with a handgun ban —  no handguns in any jurisdiction.

People should know that the mayor and Toronto City Council have no jurisdiction over federal gun laws.

City Council has left the proposition very vague at this point. The sale of firearms in the city could mean retailers and/or wholesalers can’t sell them inside the city, but it also might mean that individuals can’t buy and sell them privately, either.

Our store has been in the same location since the 1940s as a family business. We’ve been selling “Restricted” firearms [the legal classification for handguns] since the early 2000s. And we are not moving.

How could all this play out?

You have a tragedy in the city that involved a different kind of crime: a deliberate shooting at random people. So it’s not like your regular gang shooting. People suddenly feel unsafe in the city.

So then you have our City Council that almost unanimously votes in favour of a motion. It has the attention of the world.

[Canadian Minister of Public Safety Ralph] Goodale is considering a national handgun ban.

So when Prime Minister Trudeau sees a City Council that favours a handgun ban, it could grab his attention as a potentially popular movement.

What has been the response from local customers?

People in Toronto have been calling us all day, literally in a panic, concerned that they might lose their only source of guns and ammunition in the City of Toronto. We are literally the only store in this city, so this potential by-law is directly targeting us.

We also provide information to shooters, licensing advice.

We’re an integral part of the sporting community, not just in Toronto, but far beyond.

People are confused about the difference between passing a motion, and passing a by-law.

Would a handgun ban in Toronto stop violent criminals?

Ironically, Tory said they want to ban the sale of handgun ammunition in the city. As we know, there are rifles that shoot handgun ammunition and there are handguns that shoot 45/70.

By eliminating the sale of firearms in the city, in the 416 area code, somebody can easily drive to the 905 area [outside city limits] or buy online. In the digital age, things can be ordered and delivered online without being tied to a municipality.

I think that the federal government’s whole strategy may be to ban handguns in the country.

What if it did?

If Canada were to ban “Restricted” firearms, it would likely create a massive illicit trade across the border.

By increasing this illicit trade, Canada could expand the scope of the problem, because any “straw purchases” would not traceable in a Canadian database.

Criminals in Canada are going to get their hands on firearms regardless of whether Toronto has by-laws and whether or not Canada has gun-specific legislation, given their proximity to a country that has millions and millions of firearms. What is accomplished by going after legal owners?

Some people view gun stores as the place where criminals get their gear. Is that true?

The thing I want people to understand is that everyone who purchases guns and ammunition in my store has a legal licence, and they have been vetted by the RCMP. No one can stop people who purchase anything legally from committing crimes.

If somebody were to make one of my staff feel uncomfortable, or if they were overly aggressive or angry, if we thought they were a completing a “straw purchase,” we could report that information to the police.

What are better solutions than to ban guns from men and women with federal firearm licences?

With this recent crime, I understand that the attacker had a history of threatening violence. We have to make sure, first of all, that guns are not easily available to be smuggled across the U.S. border, and that we work with people who have mental-health issues in a productive way that integrates them into society.

[Bill] C-71 intends to make it more difficult for people with mental-health issues to buy firearms, since it would include more intense background checks. This is a great idea.

C-71 wants to put the onus on retailers to maintain records of the purchase of non-restricted firearms. However, if there is going to be a registry, it should be administered and maintained by the government, and not by retailers.

You also have some ideas on the licence cards themselves, right?

If the government is looking for ways to make the purchase of firearms more secure, they might consider making gun licences with security features, such as holograms or other elements that are difficult to counterfeit.

Retailers could also be able to swipe licences in order to have instant validation at the point of sale.

These steps would be more expensive for the government to implement, but they could have a larger impact on solving issues.

Targeting retailers and law-abiding gun owners is perhaps an easy step during times of high emotion when politicians want to be seen as responding to awful events that are beyond their control.

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