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Mom of shooting victim wants program to buy back guns

City council voted unanimously to look into a program to buy back guns. A grieving mother says that helps.

The program would be called the Safer City Initiative

Marley Rowe, with his son Princeton, was 23 when he was shot and killed in Ward 3. His mom, Sherri, says she's happy the city is looking into a program to buy back guns. (Marley Rowe Memorial Facebook page)

Sherri Bonnallie sat midway up in the audience of a city council meeting, wiping away tears as she listened to politicians talk about gun violence.

It's been nearly a year and a half since her son, Marley Rowe, was shot in the head and killed. It was around 4:45 a.m. on New Year's Day. The crime still hasn't been solved.

"He wasn't a gangster," she said. "He wasn't somebody that carried weapons. He was a bricklayer, a father, a son, a grandson. He was a good guy."

Coun. Matthew Green of Ward 3 referenced Rowe's death at Wednesday's council meeting when he successfully asked the city to look into a program to buy back guns from residents.

Sherri Bonnallie, Marley Rowe's mother, will speak about gun violence at a rally on Thursday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The program would be called the Safer City Initiative, a gun amnesty and buy-back program that Green says has worked in Toronto.

Green says the initiative is necessary in light of recent gun violence in his lower-city ward. Rowe's death was one incident in "a really tough year" in 2014, he said.

So far, this year hasn't been much better. On May 17, two men shot at each other in broad daylight at the corner of Main Street East and East Avenue. Hours later, there was a shooting at King and Ashley streets.

The daylight shooting "shook me to the core," said Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who has asked for a staff report on how the city could ban guns.

"Hopefully it never happens again, but surely we ought to be incensed when it does."

Bonnallie is happy to see the program. She started her own community effort, Give Proof to Our Youth, in 2011. The death of her 23-year-old son still causes heavy grief for the family, who is now focused on his two-year-old son, Princeton. But the program will help. "Our town needs this," she said.

"We don't want more crime like this. It's not making any sense. It's senseless crime."

Hamilton's police board voted this week to offer a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in Rowe's death. He was found at Sherman Avenue North and Barton Street East with a gunshot wound to the head. Police say he had been at a house party on Sherman Avenue North before he died.

Bonnallie will speak about her son, and the need to stop gun violence, at Green's #Proud2bWard3 rally at J. C. Beemer Park at 6 p.m. on Thursday. Green organized it after the daylight shooting.

"I'm trying to change this negative into a positive," Bonnallie said. "But it's still hard. It's still so close to my heart. He was my baby."

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