Gun violence rages in Toronto amid COVID-19 closures

Louis March

The number of shootings in Toronto is up over this time last year despite the current COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Toronto Police statistics, there have been more  245 shootings in the city so far this year and 24 people were killed by guns during the same period.

That’ s more than the total for January-July 2019 when there were 216 shootings and 18 people were killed by guns.

Louis March, founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement of Toronto says he’s not surprised by the latest figures.

As he explained,youth services and programs have been closed down, when these services have been needed the most.

“These are the services and programs that provide support and even employment opportunities to the most vulnerable,” he told The Caribbean  Camera in an  interview thi week.

 “Clearly COVID-19 is a priority but honestly, do political leaders really understand the connection between gun violence and lack of services and supports, especially in vulnerable communities.?  The problem is magnified even more when you add COVID-19 concerns and gun violence concerns together in these communities,” March said.

“We know the communities, and they also know the communities which need help.  Political leaders need to stop this madness and they need to take their fingers off the pause button now,” he suggested.

“These are essential services and supports that need immediate activation as we enter into the summer months when gun violence incidents historically increase.,” March  noted.

“Sleep walking and ignoring the urgency of these services and supports are not an option. Band-aid solutions and temporary solutions are not an option,” he  added.

March pointed out that there were no fewer than four shootings in Toronto this past weekend.

” And this spike in gun violence may be the result of COVID-19 restrictions –  closing community centres and shuttering anti-violence programs.

“When you take away the safe spaces from people at risk, they start doing things differently. So what happened this past weekend is not a surprise to us.

“The surprise is the fact that  we knew it was coming and we did nothing to intervene, interrupt or prevent it.”

“The people at risk with the guns are desperate. They are in  transit all the time,” March explained.

Toronto Mayor John Tory called the gun violence this past weekend “deeply concerning and unacceptable” and said the only way to reduce gun violence is to invest in programs and initiatives that address its root causes.

But March said increasing programs is not the solution ” unless the programs are based on community needs.

“We can talk about roots all we want but let’s start thinking bigger. This is Toronto, a very rich and resourceful city.”

“I would like to see legitimate action, concrete action, sustainable investment in communities and capital investment,” March said.