By Louis March
Gun violence raised its ugly head again in Toronto over the weekend. Tandridge Crescent and Clearview Heights communities are recovering from the violence and at levels of fear and despair, never seen before.
Four people shot at a 1 year old birthday party including 2 children and a baby in Tandridge, and a 27 year old fatality in Clearview Heights, the second shooting in the community within a week. When will this madness end and what will it take to break this cycle of violence?
According to police reporting as of June 21st, there have been 164 shooting and firearm discharges in Toronto this year compared to 203 at the same time last year, a 19% decline. Gun fatalities have declined 23%, currently at 16 compared to 22 last year.
As founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement, it is good to see the overall downward trending but at the same time, I am deeply concerned about some recent trends. These include the callous and brazen shootings of children and innocents and in many cases by teenagers in broad daylight. Self-regulating gang codes about firearm use against innocents and children do not apply today.
Another big concern is the influence of social media in this violence. We are seeing more and more, bragging, boasting and threatening messaging on these platforms. This influencer should not be underestimated because there have been many recent cases where gun violence activity have been linked directly to social media activity.
Access to guns is a major another major concern. Why are some people still saying that it is easier for them to get a gun than to get a job? I know that this statement is multi-layered but I remember hearing this statement, over 20 years ago.
This is serious and why this question must be asked. How are these guns getting into these communities and into these people’s hands? Recent reports are stating that approximately 80% of gun seized at crime scenes have come illegally across the border. It is difficult to believe that people who seldom leave their communities, are crossing the border travelling with guns. These are the same people who we know, will be the first to be searched.
ZGVM is a collaboration of over 40 different organizations, agencies and programs across the City, working towards the bold and ambitious objective of zero gun violence for all, and not only for some and some communities. Our biggest concern is that many people do not believe that this is possible and maybe they are right based on current realities.
Living in Rosedale is completely different from living in Rexdale. Why is nothing being done to close the gaps? ZGVM has made it clear – our quality of life and wellbeing should not be dependent on our postal code.
We know the communities where gun violence activity has become normalized. We know the communities that are traumatized by the violence. We know the communities that shut down after the sun sets and also the communities that come to life at this time. We know the communities that are under-served, over policed and where children, youth and families live in constant fear and despair.
People living in Tandride and people living in Clearview Heights deserve better. Their grief and trauma is also being felt in many other communities across Toronto. How many more shootings and loss of life is necessary in these communities, before the Feds, Province and City come together with key stakeholders to create a comprehensive strategic actions plan to arrest this gun violence crisis? After all, have proven that this approach works when they come together to address other crises.
We need strong and bold leadership from all levels of government and all key stakeholders and we need to commit to engaging community in creating the urgently needed action plan. Simply put, gun violence cannot be allowed to continue through lack of coordinated action.
Louis March, Founder of Zero Gun Violence Movement