We need action to end gun violence


We need action to end gun violence

One can only imagine the intense emotional pain and deep agony being experienced by the families of Julianna Kozis and Reese Fallon. Kozis,  ten, and 18-year-old Fallon were killed last Sunday in Toronto’s Greektown on Danforth Avenue in a deadly shooting rampage.

The shooter, 29-year-old Faisal Hussain, also injured 13 others. He was later found dead after exchanging gunfire with police.

The shooting spree and its randomness sent shockwaves through the City of Toronto. For the city’s Black and Caribbean residents, whose children and loved ones often are the victims or perpetrators of gun violence, and who have been conditioned to bear the collective guilt of violent acts by any member of the community, we are certain of what they were praying Sunday evening -“Please, Lord, Let it not be a black shooting.’’

Toronto, so far in 2018, has experienced 228 shootings, 29 of them fatal. The gun violence is scary and the loss of lives is truly heartbreaking and tragic. Sunday’s terror has been condemned by everyone including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who expressed condolences to the victims and described the shooting as a “terrible tragedy’’.

Toronto is not unraveling, as some would have us believe, despite the tragic Greektown shooting and violence earlier in the year, including the one three months ago when a driver mowed a van into people walking along Yonge Street, killing 10. It’s understandable that in the aftermath of incidents like last Sunday’s shooting, people are feeling less secure. But, as University of Toronto sociology professor Jooyoung Lee put it: “For a city of its size, Toronto is one of the two or three safest cities in North America’’.

All that being said, Toronto is at a stage where we must find solutions to stamping out crime and in eliminating the use of firearms in the committal of criminal acts. Toronto Mayor John Tory has acknowledged that Toronto has a gun problem. In fact, we’ll broaden the mayor’s acknowledgement to say that both Canada and the United States have a gun problem. It’s been like that for centuries. It’s through the use of guns and other armaments that Europeans subjugated the First Nations’ people of North America, enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and colonized the countries of the developing world.

So, as we grapple with seeking solutions to today’s crime problems, we ought not to allow fear, ignorance of history and collective guilt prevent us from putting things in their correct perspective. Too often in the past, it appeared that crime-fighting involved mostly targeting minority communities in anti-gun and anti-drug campaigns. Clearly, this approach has proven to be insufficient because it does not take into account the manufacturing and sale of weapons.

According to Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, 50 percent of illegal guns is purchased domestically through legal channels. It’s a commendable step, therefore, to witness the passing of a motion Tuesday by Toronto City Council, appealing to the federal and provincial governments to ban the sale of handguns and ammunition in the city. It’s now left to be seen whether the council’s call would be heeded.

Beyond banning handgun sales, other measures should be adopted that would serve as a deterrent to a life of crime. Suggestions in this regard have been diverse. They range from putting more police on the streets; to more community and stakeholder consultations; to setting up mental health programs and offering youth access to additional recreational and educational programs.

Community activist Louis March, founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement, argues that there is “a new culture of gun violence’’ where the shooting of people is “glamorized’’ and “glorified’’ and the shooter isn’t afraid to die.

“If you look at each one of these shootings,’’ says March, “there was an intervention point, where if a service agency had kept its doors open later, or provided a type of service that really addressed the problem, a lot of them could have been prevented.’’

Tuesday’s City Council motion included a call for $29 million in funding for community services, such as programs for youth violence intervention, employment, trauma recovery and mental health. In addition, close to $20 million is being requested to support enforcement and enhanced surveillance initiatives, including the introduction of a system known as “ShotSpotter,” which uses microphones to pinpoint the location of gunshots.

Whatever the measures and the steps proposed, we want to see action  by our leaders to end gun violence and all forms of lawlessness in Toronto.

We  agree with Mayor Tory who says that “the gun violence in any part of our city is horrible and completely unacceptable.”