Toronto

'It's become an epidemic': Anti-violence activists want more action to reduce gun violence

The founder of Zero Gun Violence Movement, Louis March, is calling for more action to reduce gun violence after a spate of shootings in Toronto.

'No one is responding accordingly,' says one Toronto activist

Several people calling for solutions after a spate of shootings in Toronto this summer. (CBC)

The founder of Zero Gun Violence Movement, Louis March, is calling for more action to reduce gun violence after a spate of shootings in Toronto.

Over the past week, police have responded to numerous shootings, including a violent Simcoe Day long weekend that left 17 people with gunshot injuries from 14 separate gun-related incidents.

"Enough is enough. It's become an epidemic and no one is responding accordingly," March told CBC Toronto on Friday.

March is one of several people calling for solutions, as people across the city have had crime scenes in the neighbourhoods due to shootings in the last two weeks.

March wants government to take a more active role in looking at the root causes of violence in the city, and improving conditions in neighbourhoods with high rates of violence.

He praised Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders for saying that it'll take more than arrests to stop gun violence.

On Friday, mere hours after Saunders told reporters a recent spate of shootings has "gang connotations," gunfire rang out again in the city, in broad daylight, killing one person and injuring another.

Louis March, founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement, says guns have become easier to access. (CBC)

March says he's seen changes in the city's gun culture in recent years. 

He also said that with easier access, guns of higher calibre are being owned by younger people, some of whom are being influenced by social media.

"Another thing is the willingness to use them," he said. "It's not show and tell anymore; it's show and shoot."

The police chief pointed to street gangs as being behind the majority of the shootings, though he refused to specify the gangs involved.

"I don't name names," Chief Saunders told reporters. "I'm not going to give credibility to them," 

One criminal lawyer and advocate for less gun violence feels that's a mistake.

"You have to identify your elements properly [in order] to provide the solution and the remedy," Knia Singh told CBC Toronto in a phone interview. 

"If we are identifying this problem incorrectly we're never going to find the remedy."

Singh, who ran for mayor in 2018, released a 10-point plan on reducing gun crimes. One of his ideas was for gangs to be identified when they're operating, as part of identifying the causes of violence.

Singh is also skeptical about a gang link. He says there a benefit to police pointing to gang problems.

"It gets people hype," he said. "It commands a higher budget for policing."

More resources coming to fight gun problem

But Saunders argued the actual gang names aren't required, as people in communities are aware of the gang subculture operating in their neighbourhoods.

He also suggested more resources are coming to fight the gun problem, saying he's working on a plan, with details to be announced soon.

"There is going to be a change and a shift in what we need to do to have a stronger focus on street gangs."

March wants Toronto to hold a forum, to discuss how to tackle gun violence, bringing together a range of people, including lawmakers, experts, family members of victims and people from the affected communities.

He said people need to understand the sense of desperation among young people living in poverty.

"One young person said to me the other day, 'I fear living more than I fear dying.'"

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