'It would be terrible if nothing changed,' says father of Danforth shooting victim

When Ken Price read the final police report on the man who shot his daughter during a rampage through Toronto's Greektown, it galvanized his resolve to tackle one of the major issues that emerged through the investigation: access to a handgun.

Samantha Price took a bullet to the hip during shooting spree along Danforth Avenue last summer

Ken Price and Claire Smith, the parents of Samantha Price, along with Danforth Avenue shooting survivor Noor Samie, right, speak during their first public statement as a group at the Danforth Music Hall in February. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin)

When Ken Price read the final police report on the man who shot his daughter during a rampage through Toronto's Greektown, it galvanized his resolve to tackle one of the major issues that emerged through the investigation: access to a handgun.

Price's daughter Samantha took a bullet to the hip during Faisal Hussain's shooting spree along a bustling stretch of the city's Danforth Avenue last summer. She was among 13 people wounded, while her friend, 18-year-old Reese Fallon, and a 10-year-old girl named Julianna Kozis died. Hussain killed himself after his attack.

Late last month, police Chief Mark Saunders gathered victims and their families to detail the outcome of the nearly year-long probe into what happened. The group learned Hussain had a long history of mental health issues, repeatedly harmed himself, and somehow got his hands on a gun.

Police don't know where he obtained the handgun, although they did discover the firearm was sold legally from a Saskatchewan gun shop. Investigators did not find a motive for the attack, or any affiliation to terrorism or hate groups.

For Price, the information bolstered his determination to push for stricter gun laws.

"This confirmed our feeling," he said. "It's a risk in society to allow gun ownership to be as pervasive as it is, especially handguns."

People write messages on construction boarding after a mass shooting on Danforth Avenue in Toronto, on July 24, 2018. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Hussain, 29, had medical and behavioural interventions through his school years and into early adulthood. He was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder as a teen, and was on and off treatment for years until he rejected it outright in 2014, according to police.

Price said he thought a lot about how Hussain could have been stopped, focusing on the intersection between mental health and access to guns.

"You have a right as an adult to make your own decisions, but what is the balance between behaviour that every once in a while is self-destructive versus potentially publicly destructive?" he asked.

"These are not easy questions. He fell right below the line."

Friends of 18-year-old Danforth shooting victim Reese Fallon, Desirae Shapiro and her mother Gina Shapiro, react after visiting a makeshift memorial remembering the victims of the shooting. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Tackling the issue of access to handguns would at least be part of the solution in such cases, Price said.

Price's daughter ended up being among 613 people were shot in the city last year — 51 of those died, according to police data.

Patrick McLeod, whose daughter Skye was with Price's daughter and Fallon on the night of the Danforth shooting, also believes the attack has highlighted the importance of restricting handguns.

"You'll never solve this completely, but you want to make it harder for the bad guys to get weapons," he said, adding that while his daughter wasn't shot that night, she's still struggled to deal with the terror of what happened.

In mid-June, federal Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said more needs to be done on gun violence, but no new measures would be taken by the governing Liberals before the October election. That includes not banning handguns.

Candles and photos of 18-year-old victim Reese Fallon at a memorial for the victims of a shooting along Danforth Avenue in Toronto. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Price and McLeod said the families affected by the Danforth shooting have told Blair they intend to turn the matter into an election issue.

McLeod, who worked for the Toronto police for 32 years, said he is a lifelong conservative, but would vote Liberal if the party takes a hard stance on guns.

He recalled rushing to Greektown after his terrified daughter called from a bathroom in the basement of a restaurant, telling him what happened. He found her and other friends and then looked for Fallon, who wasn't answering her phone.

An officer then pulled him aside and told him a woman lying dead on the street fit her description. McLeod said he went over and recognized his daughter's friend.

"Nothing prepares you to seeing someone that was at your kitchen table a few days before, chatting with your daughter, dead on the Danforth," he said.

"Handguns serve no useful function for Canadians. We can start by not issuing any more permits for handguns, then at least in two generations these will be gone."

Price added that he and other victims' families just want to see action taken.

"I hope something concrete comes out of this shooting," Price said. "It would be terrible if nothing changed."

Ken Price, father of shooting victim Samantha Price, speaks to the crowd at the Danforth Music Hall, in Toronto last summer during a benefit concert. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)