Another senseless tragedy that hits the heart of every parent. An 11-year-old boy, allowed to stay up late so he could celebrate a family birthday party with his cousins, was gunned down in Toronto last weekend, caught in the crossfire of a gang-related gun fight.
What should have been a precious childhood memory for young Ephraim Brown, surrounded on a warm, late summer night by family and friends, was shattered by the scourge of gang violence that?s been escalating in Canada?s largest cities.
This open gun battle recalls the Boxing Day 2005 death of 15-year-old Jane Creba, who was gunned-down in a gang-related gun fight while seeking post-Christmas sales with her Mom on a Toronto street packed with shoppers.
Open gun battles in our streets and neighbourhoods? Here in Canada? While far from frequent (although one death is one too many), these incidents demonstrate that gangs and criminals are growing bolder with increasing disregard for the law and for the safety of innocent bystanders.
Both deaths prompted demands to address gang and gun violence. I?ve been dismayed that the opposition parties have used both occasions as justification for the failed long-gun registry and for an outright ban on handguns. This is misguided, misplaced reasoning that causes great frustration for those of us wanting to truly crack-down on gangs and gun crime.
Gang members don?t give gun registration or handgun bans even a first thought. Neither mechanism stops them from getting a gun or from opening fire among innocent bystanders. During debate this June on Bill C-21, Conservative legislation to scrap the long-gun registry, I stated what I, and many others, have repeated countless times before, ?Criminals do not register their firearms!?
What gang members DO understand is MANDATORY jail time for gun crime rather than plea bargains and concurrent sentences. Gangs DO understand tougher criminal sentences rather than house arrest or a few days in jail. Gangs DO understand reformed bail hearings where they aren?t automatically freed to roam the streets. Gangs DO understand thousands of additional police officers and anti-gun smuggling initiatives that curtail their access to guns.
Our Conservative government has either already implemented or introduced legislation to make these measures a reality. Yet the opposition parties attempt to block, water-down or delay these reforms at every opportunity. Right now, the unelected Liberal majority in the Senate is refusing to pass Bill C-10, which ELECTED MPs passed to impose mandatory penalties for gun crimes.
As for calls to ban handguns, effectively, there is a handgun ban in Canada. Handguns are already tightly controlled, having been subject to registration since 1934, and restricted to those requiring them on the job (police officers, armoured guards), legitimate target shooters and approved collectors.
We need to get gang members and their guns off the streets. And, in many cases jail is the only place members can get away from the influence of gang warfare and turn their lives around. Gangs need to know they will no longer get off with a ?slap on the wrist?. Above all, they cannot hurt innocent children in our streets and backyards from a jail cell!