As It Happens

Proposed handgun ban is 'nonsense' that doesn't address roots of violence, says Toronto mother

Evelyn Fox says she is sick of seeing Toronto plagued by gun violence, three years after a stray bullet took the life of her own son.

Evelyn Fox's 26-year-old son, Kiesingar Gunn, was killed by a stray bullet outside a Toronto club in 2016

In 2016, Evelyn Fox's 26-year-old son, Kiesingar Gunn, was killed after he was hit by a stray bullet outside a club in Liberty Village. (CBC)
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The last few days have been a painful reminder for Evelyn Fox.

In 2016, Fox's 26-year-old son, Kiesingar Gunn, was shot and killed outside a club in Toronto's Liberty Village.

This week, another shooting happened at the same club. It was part of a string of gun violence over the Civic Holiday long weekend that left at least 17 people injured in 14 separate shootings.

And last week, 16-year-old Hanad Abdullahi was shot and killed at the Toronto Community Housing high-rise where he lived. 

On Tuesday, Fox joined community members at the Falstaff Community Centre next door to that building to mourn and to demand action. 

As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay spoke to Fox about her son and why she is calling on the city to take swift action to address the root causes of gun violence. Here is part of their conversation.

Ms. Fox, what goes through your mind when you hear about the kind of gun violence Toronto has witnessed during this past week?

It just re-triggers and retraumatizes me every time I hear about a shooting.

Especially with the ones with the potential for children to be traumatized and potentially be victims. It really puts me in a bad place mentally because I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder now.

It really takes a toll on my mental health.

Has anyone ever been arrested or charged in the death of your son?

No.

In 2016, Kiesingar Gunn was killed after he was shot outside the Forty2 Supperclub at Liberty Street and Mowat Avenue in Toronto. (Facebook)

One of the shootings this past weekend actually occurred at the same nightclub where Kiesingar, your son, was shot, right? What is it like to have so very few answers about his death nearly three years later?

It's extremely defeating. Even though I try to keep hope that someone who witnessed will come forward and at least give us some kind of closure.

It is very mentally exhausting — mentally and emotionally exhausting. I have to go to work every day.

I do my Communities for Zero Violence work usually after my work and on the weekends. Plus, I am taking care of my children and my son's children. So I feel very overwhelmed at times.

You went to a community meeting that took place in the neighborhood where 16-year-old Hanad Abdullahi was shot and killed a week ago. Take me into that meeting room, that community meeting, what was the atmosphere there like?

They're hurting. They're grief stricken. There were people crying and upset. People who were related to that child, but also people who the shooting occurred beside their doorway.

There was another resident there who said that she had three bullets lodged into her walls because of shootings outside of her apartment previously and that her eight-year-old granddaughter is afraid to play outside.

Like, this is the reality in a lot of these neighbourhoods is that these children are terrified to go play outside.

What do you want to see from police and governments when it comes to putting an end to this kind of gun violence?

I want them to address the Roots of Youth Violence [report]. It's imperative.

It recommends positive youth spaces. It recommends trauma counselling and trauma supports to all the communities and victims, which is very difficult to find.

The education system needs to have smaller class sizes.

We need to stop suspending the students and expelling the students for the behaviours that they're displaying and take an actual positive approach to finding what the underlying issues are that that child is dealing with and stop sending them out into the street for the street to then embrace them.

So, I mean there's so many different aspects of it and no one is acting on it.

Mayor John Tory has called for a handgun ban but Fox says that proposal is "nonsense" and that the roots of gun violence need to be addressed first. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

As you know, this is an issue that all three levels of government have been talking about and promising to address. In Ottawa today, Canada's Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Bill Blair, said many measures must be taken to reduce gun violence and that a handgun ban may be one of those. Ms. Fox was your son killed by a handgun?

Yes.

And so what is your take on the idea of a handgun ban?

I think that it is nonsense. I think that it doesn't matter if there's a handgun ban, like street level wise, because they'll get access to the handguns anyways.

We live beside the border of the biggest manufacturing gun place in the world.

As long as we live beside that border and there is no commonsense regulation there those firearms are just going to be in greater demand and they'll get access to those.

Yes, I hear what some of the survivors are saying in terms of, you know, ban the handguns, at least they won't have handguns here to be able to steal and access. But, I mean, we haven't even tried to address the roots of violence.

I think that the ban is an overreaction, especially when we know that they'll still be accessing the firearms and it will not deter them from using them.

Those are your calls to the governments. What is your call to us, your fellow Canadians?

To step up and and get involved. I mean, if you think that you're exempt from a stray bullet, you're not. I can attest to that.

My son was a hardworking person. He was a dedicated father and he went out for a night of fun.

At 26 years old, we should be able to go to a club and and be safe and enjoy ourselves. I know that I did.

So get involved. Ask the political leaders to do their jobs.

Written by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes and John McGill. Produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.