Bang. Bang. Two shootings in the span of eight hours on Tuesday. Don't tell us there isn't a crisis in our city. Handguns are blasting a hole in our national fabric, snuffing out young lives and costing billions in health care every year. And it's not just a gang thing. Mayor David Miller has been taking aim at the feds and is pushing a national handgun ban. So far, more than 65,000 Canadians have signed his online petition (toronto.ca). Yet in this election, the NDP is the only federal party talking about an outright ban. The issue is simple - either we're a country that values human life or we're not. Time we joined the mayor in telling our pols, "Get the pieces off our streets."
1 There's way too much cold, hard steel floating around.
We think of the U.S. as gun-obsessed, but more adults per capita are packin' in Canada (one in four compared to one in six) than in the United States. More than 632,559 guns are registered in Canada, 10,000 of them in Toronto. And we're telling the Americans to clean up their act?
2 Gun dealers and the feds can't keep track of what's out there.
One-third of the guns used in crimes in Toronto actually come from so-called legal sources, i.e., from break-ins at gun stores and the homes of collectors. Since 1997, more than 97,000 firearms have been reported missing or stolen in Canada. Another 130,000 licensed gun owners who had previously registered failed or refused to register their guns after the Libs introduced a new gun registry in 98.
3 Firearms are the third leading cause of death among young people.
Canada ranks right up there with Israel and Northern Ireland - a spine-chilling fifth among 26 industrialized countries - in the rate of firearms deaths among children under 15. Canada's firearms-related homicide rate is three times higher than Australia's and six times higher than England's and Wales's. Handguns accounted for 40 per cent of all homicides in Toronto between 98 and 2003.
4 It's not mostly a gang thing.
Suicides and accidental deaths from guns account for two-thirds of all firearms-related deaths in Canada. How's that for ripping a hole in your conventional wisdom? More than 20 per cent of the 4,000 suicides annually are carried out with firearms. More blood is spilled on the floors of the nation's hospital emergency rooms from accidents and depression than from battles between rival gangs of Bloods and Crips.
5 Gun violence is costing us billions.
According to the National Public Services Research Institute, the total yearly cost associated with gunshot wounds in Canada is $6.6 billion. Suicides and attempted suicides account for the bulk of those costs ($4.7 billion); homicides and assaults are next ($1.1 billion). Productivity losses exceed $1.5 billion. The cost of every survivor admitted to hospital is approximately $300,000, to say nothing of the pain and suffering.
6 Stiffer penalties and prison terms are not working.
More cops are patrolling the streets than ever before, and crime in all other major categories is down, yet incidents of gun violence keep rising. In 2006, 1,287 young people were accused of firearms-related offences in Toronto, a 33 per cent increase over 2002.
7 We share the world's most porous border with the world's largest manufacturer of handguns.
Two-thirds of all guns seized by Toronto police enter Canada illegally from the U.S., where there are 81,325 federally licensed dealers and pawnbrokers (three times the number of McDonald's franchises) and 5,500 new handguns are sold each day. At some flea markets south of the border, gun buyers don't even have to present a driver's licence.
8 The Firearms Registry is riddled with holes where handguns are concerned.
All firearms in Canada are supposed to be registered, but no government agency checks firearms removed from the registry because they've supposedly become inoperable. Almost 1 million firearms have been removed from the registry since 98.
9 Gun manufacturers and the gun lobby are lying to us.
They sell us fear, telling us we need to arm ourselves for self-defence, using the very weapons that threaten us. Guns are manufactured for one reason and one reason only: to kill. Licensing and registering regimes are not protecting us from gun violence. The stats demonstrate that the threat to public safety does not depend on the intent of the user, but is related to the presence of the firearm itself.
10 Gun violence creates obstacles to economic growth.
It's pretty straightforward. The acceptance of guns and gun culture is warping the values of young people, leading to higher school dropout rates - as high as 40 per cent in disadvantaged areas of the city - and destroying the potential for investment in neighbourhoods where violence is occurring.