Thursday, June 9, 2016
Surge in Gun Violence in Toronto
The nightmare recurs, and we wring our hands, blame the victims, damn the perpetrators, demand the black community stand up and take responsibility, wonder why the cops aren’t miracle workers who arrest the brazen bad guys immediately and fret about our safety when the bullets penetrate our public gathering places.
It’s so predictable. Anticipation breeds expectancy, grows into normality. And, finally, routine.
Mayor John Tory gamely refused on Wednesday to “stand here and accept” the argument that the current outbreak of gun violence is a byproduct of big-city life. But, displaying maturity often missing in such circumstances, Tory didn’t fall back on “let’s throw more cops at the problem.” Instead, he admitted to the city that solutions will be long in coming, that he’s willing to try everything, and “there is no magic wand on this.”
Tory was flanked by Councillors Giorgio Mammoliti and Vincent Crisanti and Josh Colle. The Rexdale corner of Crisanti’s ward has been deluged by hits recently. Mammoliti always manages to wallow in this bloody mess.
In 2003, he proposed a gun amnesty. He wants another one, with a twist. This time Mammo wants businesses to offer “coupons for guns.” You turn in your gun, and you get food coupons.
Mothers and sisters and girlfriends know where the guns are and will take them from under the pillow and under the mattress — if offered food, Mammo told reporters.
One would laugh, except, what’s your solution?
Most of us go about our business, avoiding gazes, tightening the collar around our necks, fearful of being afraid, defiant, in denial — flummoxed really, by the blood on our streets.
As long as they are just killing each other.
It’s been 10 years and counting since the so-called summer of the gun. You’d be hard-pressed to find something to say now that wasn’t said then. The tragedy. The pain. The lost lives barely memorialized and rarely remembered.
Back then, like today, young men were executed in broad daylight. Bullets were sprayed in public places — sometimes hitting bystanders. Young women died in cars shot up by gangsters settling a score with a passenger or the driver. And victims driving expensive cars were taken out by professional hit men — much like what appears to have happened near the Minto towers at Eglinton and Yonge on Tuesday.
Amon Beckles, 18, was killed on the steps of my church — ambushed by three other men attending the funeral of Jamal Hemmings, 17, shot 10 days earlier.
Then, there was the Eaton Centre chaos. And Danzig.
And children got shot and killed by bullets meant for someone else — bullets invading children’s bedrooms.
So, there was the mayor on Wednesday, speaking at a news conference because that’s what he’s paid to do — keep the faith, tell citizens that all is well in Hogtown. Well, as “well” as it could be.
The federal government has to help with stemming the flow of illegal guns across the border, Tory said.
School boards and municipalities must combine efforts so schools don’t sit empty in summer while kids while away the summer days on the street.
Police have to keep kicking in the doors of the bad guys.
And social programs need a boost. “We have to get to the alienated and marginalized young people” before they turn to crime, Tory said.
And beyond government and the police and social programs, “we are asking for help from the people of Toronto to gather up their courage” to tell police what they know about the shootings and get the gunmen off the streets.
“The violence is complex, the problem is complex, and it’s not going to be easily isolated or fixed. You don’t notice me or my colleagues standing here and saying we have an easy answer; there is not an easy answer, but we know we have to do more,” Tory said.
Gun violence is still front-page news in Toronto. That’s good. It means we care. At least, nominally so.
After the shooting at the Rexdale church in November 2005, the provincial attorney general called it “an exceptionally abhorrent act... an assault on a civil society.” The shooters “belong in jail right now,” said then mayor David Miller. Then councillor Karen Stintz said the news “makes me want to cry.” The issue is so pressing “there is no other city priority than this,” she said.
Police have made no arrests in the murder of Beckles and Hemmings.
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