The recent murderous rampage along Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, in the heart of Greektown, was a tragedy, but does it have anything to do with gun control or terrorism?
Five years ago, at the time of the Boston Marathon bombings, I wrote extensively about the tragedy and my views about memorials in Remembering Boston, but this outrage has struck closer to home and is frankly much more frightening.
About once a week we head out for lunch, or dinner, or just a treacly thick Greek coffee and a slice of baklava at one or other of our favourite spots along The Danforth. We could easily have been there on Sunday, July 22, 2018, when a crazed gunman used his brother’s gun to shoot two innocent people dead and severely wound 13 others. The dead are a 10-year-old girl and a young woman, reported The Globe and Mail. “Senseless,” said a policeman who was there on duty at the time and to whom I spoke near one of the memorials recently.
The scenes at the two memorial site I visited were overwhelmingly sad. Sad wilted flowers, sad wreaths, sad pictures and notes of condolence and remembrance, and of course, sad little offerings of teddy bears. Later on the day we were there, politicians from all levels of government, including our loopy Prime Minister, arrived to pay tribute. Disgustingly, Trudeau tried to link this rampage with personal tragedies. I hardly think having a brother killed by an avalanche while skiing off piste compares with having your daughter murdered by an insane gunman while innocently walking down the street.
The Monday after the murders, our City Father’s rose up in outrage and called for a ban on handguns. In spite of opposition, the motion passed, but it is not in the City’s purview to impose such a ban. That would be either a Provincial or Federal Government mandate. And we all know how much effect that will have. About none, if the massively expensive long-gun registration debacle is anything to go by.
Nonetheless, I believe they are on the right track. As the old cliché has it: ‘Guns don’t kill, people do.’ If there are less guns around then there will be, just possibly, less gun violence. The fact that the shooter borrowed or stole his gangbanger brother’s legal or illegal handgun, just shows how easy it is for a determined killer to obtain a weapon. As Mayor John Tory whined the next day: ‘Why does anyone in this City need to have a gun at all?’ Well John, the answer is easy: ‘Because some of us are gangbangers and about to commit a crime or shoot our rivals dead!’ Unlike the typical American city, none of the rest of us do have a gun or want one.
The US has been racked with mass shootings, to the extent there is no need to detail them here. And every time someone kills more shoppers or school children, the outrage wells up. But the gun lobby in the US is too strong and nothing is done. Here in Canada, we have few non-gang related shootings, which makes this shooting even more tragic. What motivated a mentally ill man to step out of his own neighbourhood and go on a rampage where people had gathered to enjoy themselves. Was it just because he knew there would be lots of targets? Was there some racial motive? Why did he shoot some diners and walk past both my own favourite restaurants, ignoring them? Perhaps we will never know.
The reason the City plan to ban handguns will fail, is clear. The City is not an isolated island. Nothing will prevent gangbangers bringing guns in from the suburbs to the east, north and west. For years there has been an alleged gun trail from the nearby US border to the City. I’ve crossed the border several times by road in the past few months and been subject to nary a glance. The volumes are just too great to stop the traffic. Thousands of illegal immigrants swarm into Canada from the US every year. Imagine how easy it is to get a handgun across this very long and mostly unguarded border. What we need, is a very long-term plan for dealing with the gangs that espouse gun violence, and that includes taking a sensible view on the drug trade that enables the gangs in the first place.
Speaking of islands, Britain is one where gun violence has always been rare. Handguns have long been banned from private ownership (along with semiautomatic and pump-action firearms) and the government instituted a successful buy-back program years ago.
In Australia, the government also spent millions in buying back handguns and made possession illegal. In Japan, handguns are illegal and citizens must pass rigorous tests to even own an air gun.
These practical approaches are unlikely here. Some pundits believe the only answer is to look at the money flowing to organized crime from illegal drug use and make drugs legal, just as booze was made legal after prohibition failed to stop social drinking.
Whatever the answer, we have to talk about gun violence in open debate and not allow the politicians to get away with shoving the problem under the table. For surely, people will continue to die.