Canada blames U.S. for gun violence
Toronto shooting is latest death in a record year
Tuesday, December 27, 2005; Posted: 9:54 p.m. EST (02:54 GMT)
Police on horseback guard the site where a shooting occurred Monday in Toronto, Canada.
TORONTO, Ontario (AP) -- Canadian officials, seeking to make sense of another fatal shooting in what has been a record year for gun-related deaths, said Tuesday that along with a host of social ills, part of the problem stemmed from what they said was the United States exporting its violence.
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Toronto Mayor David Miller warned that Canada could become like the United States after gunfire erupted Monday on a busy street filled with holiday shoppers, killing a 15-year-old girl and wounding six bystanders -- the latest victims in a record surge in gun violence in Toronto.
The shooting stemmed from a dispute among a group of 10 to 15 youth, and the victim was a teenager out with a parent near a popular shopping mall, police said Tuesday.
"I think it's a day that Toronto has finally lost its innocence," Det. Sgt. Savas Kyriacou said. "It was a tragic loss and tragic day."
While many Canadians take pride in Canadian cities being less violent than their American counterparts, Toronto has seen 78 murders this year, including a record 52 gun-related deaths -- almost twice as many as last year.
"What happened yesterday was appalling. You just don't expect it in a Canadian city," the mayor said.
"It's a sign that the lack of gun laws in the U.S. is allowing guns to flood across the border that are literally being used to kill people in the streets of Toronto," Miller said.
Miller said Toronto, a city of nearly three million, is still very safe compared to most American cities, but the illegal flow of weapons from the United States is causing the noticeable rise in gun violence.
"The U.S. is exporting its problem of violence to the streets of Toronto," he said.
Miller said that while almost every other crime in Toronto is down, the supply of guns has increased and half of them come from the United States.
Miller said the availability of stolen Canadian guns is another problem, and that poverty in certain Toronto neighborhoods is a root cause.
"There are neighborhoods in Toronto where young people face barriers of poverty, discrimination and don't have real hope and opportunity. The kind of programs that we once took for granted in Canada that would reach out to young people have systematically disappeared over the past decade and I think that gun violence is a symptom of a much bigger problem," Miller said.
The escalating violence prompted the prime minister to announce earlier this month that if re-elected on January 23, his government would ban handguns. With severe restrictions already in place against handgun ownership, many criticized the announcement as politics.
Martin, who says up to half of the gun crimes in Canada involve weapons brought in illegally from the United States, raised the smuggling problem when he met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in October.
Martin offered his condolences in a statement Tuesday, saying he was horrified by the shootings.
"What we saw yesterday is a stark reminder of the challenge that governments, police forces and communities face to ensure that Canadian cities do not descend into the kind of rampant gun violence we have seen elsewhere," Martin said.
John Thompson, a security analyst with the Toronto-based Mackenzie Institute, says the number of guns smuggled from the United States is a problem, but that Canada has a gang problem -- not a gun problem -- and that Canada should stop pointing the finger at the United States.
"It's a cop out. It's an easy way of looking at one symptom rather than addressing a whole disease," Thompson said.
Two suspects were arrested and at least one firearm was seized soon after the shootings Monday. Kyriacou said it was an illegal handgun.
Three females and four males were injured, including one male who is in critical condition. Police believe they were bystanders.