Gun violence kills all of us

Two groups of activists met with four of the GTA’s federal Members of Parliament in Ottawa recently to advocate for strong and urgent action to combat gun violence.

In more than one ways, gun violence is killing all of us.

Some of us are dying brutally, some of us are dying softly and some of us are dying slowly.

But, again, in more ways than one, most of us are feeling the pain.

The complication is that some of us, because we feel the pain a lot less and a lot less directly, become too complacent. That is, until someone we love or know falls victim to gun violence. Then the emotional pain hits us in the gut.

Fortunately, a few of us do decide to mobilize others and to take responsibility for the issue, collectively and in the context of the broader and deeper social malaise of which gun violence is but one of several symptoms.

Then, words of wisdom come forth from the man and woman in the street and from the relatives, friends, neighbors and colleagues of gun violence victims. Here are some insightful words from one such non-specialist in the fields related to gun violence:

“Where are the guns coming from?  And why is there so much gun violence in the communities already suffering from poverty, under-employment, poor family supports, and inappropriate and poorly timed services? These were some of the questions raised at last week’s meeting.”

The author of those very relevant questions is Mr. Louis March, the founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement (ZGVM). And the meeting with the MP’s to which he refers was the result of a joint initiative between that organization and Communities for Zero Violence (CZV), led by Ms. Kelly Whetter.

How do we come to terms with the analysis put forward by these two highly motivated group agents of change?

Mr. March points out that, in the last three years, there has been an increase of almost 100 per cent in the number of persons killed by gunfire in Toronto. He insists that the changing trends in gun violence provide disturbing evidence of “more accessible guns, higher caliber weapons, younger people using guns and the brazen nature of the shootings.”

Ms. Whetter’s group, for its part, adds fuel to the fire with another painful truth. They voiced their concerns about the slow-moving judicial system in processing court cases.

And yet, so many of the effective solutions to those and many other social ills are well known, have been studied in detail by the specialists and are often easy to see in operation, if we take the trouble to open our eyes, ears and electronic browsers.

On the larger scale, many of the facilities for personal development, skills training, leadership development, arts and craft, sports, entrepreneurial training and support, seniors activities, library and study services,  IT training, career development, as well as social and professional mentorship are quite impressive”. The following are just five shining models worthy of emulation:

  • TROPICANA Centre of Excellence in Scarborough
  • Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park
  • Thornhill Community Centre
  • Frank Mc Kechnie Library and community centre in Mississauga

On the smaller scale, more use needs to be made of book clubs, homework groups, study clubs and community organizations. Multi-generational, community-based book clubs are a relatively un-tapped gold mine for a lot of the social ills inherent in the daily lives of those who drift from broken homes, poverty, and from educational and social underperformance, falling into the dubious benefits of gun violence: a new “social identity”, friendships, partnerships-in-crime and ill-gotten money.

If our political leaders do not take up the challenge quickly and forcefully enough, it is our role to push them, the business sector and the educational institutions, in the policy directions that we know can make a difference in people’s lives.

Gun violence cannot continue to thrive in a society that focuses its social policies and programs on stabilizing family life and providing a “decent” standard of living. Public investment in health, education and housing combines well with affordable, well regulated child care and a universal living wage.

Gun violence becomes less attractive to children and youth who are engaged in educational systems that include, in the content and delivery of the curriculum, such basic needs as: general knowledge, personal development, civic engagement, skills acquisition, arts and sports, race relations and money management.

Gun violence will not prosper in a society that places community-building and ecologically sustainable living at the very centre of both urban and rural planning.

Why should we continue to allow gun violence to kill all of us?