Dawson shooting victim launches national gun control campaign

A victim of the Dawson College shootings who has a bullet lodged in his neck is launching a national campaign for stricter gun control laws, a few weeks after challenging Prime Minister Harper to a debate on the issue.

A victim of the Dawson College shootings who has a bullet lodged in his neck is launching a national campaign for stricter gun control laws, a few weeks after challenging Prime Minister Harper to a debate on the issue.

Eighteen-year old Hayder Kadhim launched his campaign Wednesday afternoon in Montreal, demanding tighter limits on handguns, a ban on assault rifles, and the preservation of the national gun registry.

Kadhim has the backing of the Dawson Coalition for Gun Control, a group formed after the Sept. 13 shootings. Together they're launching a letter-writing campaign that will target Conservative MPs and opposition members.

Open letter to PM

Kadhim has also written an open letter to Harper that describes the young man's ordeal on Sept. 13 when Kimveer Gill stormed into the school and opened fire on students in the atrium.

Kadhim was one of 21 people shot during the rampage, in which one woman, 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa, died. Kadhim was shot in the head and neck and was in a coma for several days.

He said when he began to recover he couldn't get over Ottawa's response to the shootings.

"When those kinds of events happen, it's supposed to make the government step back, and think about them. But in this case, our prime minister just said, 'Now's not the time to talk about those kinds of things," Kadhim told CBC.

Hopes to force discussion on issue

The 18-year-old is launching his national campaign on gun control as a way to force Harper into a discussion about the issue.

"We have to work on the laws, and make it harder for any person to get any kind of firearm, because Kimveer Gill got it, so if he got it, any other person can get it."

The gun registry should be maintained, and handguns should only be allowed in controlled locations such as artillery clubs and shooting ranges, Kadhim said. He hopes MPs who receive letters from the campaign will vote against the abolition of the registry, Kadhim said.

He's also phoned and e-mailed Harper's office, and he hopes to receive the courtesy of a reply, he said.

Many people want to meet with the prime minister, but it isn't always possible, said Stockwell Day, federal minister of public security.

Hundreds of people are shot in Canada every year, and while every situation is terrible, it's difficult for the prime minister to meet all of them, Day told CBC Radio.

"Of people who are killed with weapons, about a third of those are with firearms, and two thirds are with knives, so there's a lot of people who'd love to meet with the prime minister," he said Wednesday afternoon.

Day is willing to meet with Kadhim as early as Monday, but points out that the student's demands regarding assault rifles and hand gun control are already law in Canada.

Other victims making steady recovery

All of the 20 victims shot at Dawson College in September have been released from hospital, except for one young man, who suffered serious head injuries. He's now recovering in a regular hospital ward, officials said.

Other victims are receiving physiotherapy and many have returned to Dawson to resume classes.

But some victims say they're having difficulty coping with the experience of being shot at school.

Joshua Perl said he's found it so hard to be near the shooting site, that he dropped out of Dawson College. The 18-year old was shot in the forearm, a wound that has since healed save for a large scar. But Perl says he feels strange about his school.

"I don't like the place anymore. I just have flashbacks, and things like that. It's not comfortable like it used to be," he told CBC.

Perl said he may move to Israel to study, and change his environment.

Meaghan Hennegan, 18, was shot in the buttock and arm, and still can't use a pen or sit down for very long. But she's finding it possible to move on with her life. "It was something bad that happened. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and so were other people. [But] there was no reason to dwell on it."

Hennegan's mother was on the sidewalk outside Dawson College when the teenager was shot. Kathleen Dixon remembers throwing herself on her daughter in a moment of instinctive protection. Both are now receiving counselling, with the hope that, in time, they'll find closure.

"You know, you just wake up, you know, every day, very grateful that she wasn't more seriously hurt," Dixonsaid.