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132 Comments

politics

What We Really Talk About When We Talk About Guns

Recently Olivia Chow called for a handgun ban. It seems like a standard bit of progressive policy. It isn't—not in Toronto today. This is why.

A mural at Regent Park. Photo by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.

A few years ago, my sister’s classmate was shot dead in a field. Adrian Johnston was 15 years old, and a student of Runnymede Collegiate. After the announcement was made at school, students who were too shaken up to continue the school day were allowed to leave. I lived only a few blocks away at the time, so when my sister called, I took the rest of the day off work and told her to come by. She didn’t talk about it, and I didn’t ask. We studiously avoided the news, but caught the occasional blip while flipping channels. Setting up temporary camp free from the phrases “gang ties” and “another summer of the gun” was impossible, so we played video games and watched movies until she was ready to go home.

It wasn’t until months later that she first spoke to me about it—after Ottawa native Wesler Fabien was gunned down in Yorkville. With a juvenile sarcasm that I thought she had outgrown, she said, “In the mean streets of Bloor and Avenue. I wonder if it was gang-related.”

The question of gang ties was, in fact, briefly raised after the murder of Wesler Fabien. As with other shootings involving African-Canadian males, and given that it happened the night after the Caribana parade, it was inevitable that it would be. It was raised and then dropped in the absence of evidence. (Usually, reporters will say something along the lines of “It’s unclear whether the shooting was gang-related.” This introduces the thought that it might be into our collective consciousness, and then serves as a kind of baseline that informs and underlies future public conversations about crime.)

But this is what many communities have come to expect in the dialogue on violence. When a serious crime is reported on television, all of us sit up a little straighter and whisper a little prayer that the perpetrator is not of our kinfolk, or our skinfolk. And when politicians talk about creating community solutions to social problems—when they talk about shootings at Runnymede in a way that’s different than they discuss shootings in Yorkville—we know which communities they’re talking about.

So here we are again, with another Toronto politician blowing the dog whistle and driving our communities back into a defensive posture. On the matter of gun violence, we argue over whether a handgun ban will make any difference, but allow the conversation on gang violence to go uncontested. And when we talk about gang violence, it almost goes without saying which communities we’re talking about. Olivia Chow, understanding first-hand how immigrant communities can be unfairly stigmatized, was supposed to know better. Surrounded by young African-Canadian kids, earlier this week she announced that, as mayor, she would lobby the federal government to ban handguns.

Her opponents called it grandstanding and an empty gesture, but the real question is why we even need to have this discussion. Crime in Canada has been in freefall since the mid-2000s, with Toronto leading the way. Despite a continually growing population, reports of violent crime in Toronto are trending downwards. We live in fear of another Summer of the Gun, yet by all measures, we’re safer now than we were in the 1980s.

It seems Toronto’s political class can’t help but repeat tropes that conjure up negative stereotypes of communities of colour, even with the intention of trying to help them. Note Chow’s language in the presser. She proposes this ban to stop violent criminals who will “go out and shoot someone they don’t know,” even though the overwhelming majority of homicide victims know their killers. She referenced the tragic death of Somali teacher Abshir Hassan when she mentioned “drive-by” shootings, but such shootings are increasingly rare in Toronto. Note that Chow made this announcement in the Keele and Sheppard neighbourhood, and not in her downtown core, which has had its own problems with gun violence.

Olivia Chow has repeatedly touted her immigrant roots and first-hand understanding of minority issues, yet when an opportunity for true leadership arrived, she spoke in the same coded language as any other politician, repeating the insulting, false narrative of bullet-saturated life in priority neighbourhoods. That narrative is why we continue to lecture our youth in these neighbourhoods on staying out of trouble, even though the statistics show they are. This is why we continue to tell them to work hard and study, even though they’re matching and outperforming their peers.

What Chow refers to as the “diverse community” has been working on their issues. They’ve been beating the message into their young men’s heads to choose education and entrepreneurship over crime. And the message has been working. For example, those we call “visible minorities” consistently match or exceed the Canadian average for postsecondary education attainment. First-generation African-Canadians between the ages of 25 and 34 meet the national average, with 25.9 per cent in possession of a university degree. Their South Asian peer group claims 56.9 per cent, and nearly 60 per cent of Chinese-Canadians have thrown their mortarboards into the air. We’ve been doing the work. We’ve been getting educated, staying out of trouble, and doing our best to assimilate into the social fabric. Yet let us speak up on the issues that continue to marginalize us, and we are immediately slapped down. Let us ask to celebrate the achievements of the best of us, rather than bemoaning the actions of the worst of us, and we’re told to button it up. Even by progressives who claim to be our allies, and thus deserving of reciprocal support.

As David Soknacki mentioned, Chicago banned handguns between 1982 and 2010. Yet gun violence continued its inexorable climb, turning the city into an urban war zone. In 2013, 2,185 people were killed or injured by gun violence in Chicago. This year, the number stands at 1,129 so far. Chicago’s problems with violence are well documented. As a root of violence, handguns do not hold a candle to the city’s government-sponsored history of redlining and blockbusting, ensuring permanent fortresses of poverty and crime. Yet the public discourse on violence in Chicago mirrors that in our own city, which loses fewer of its people to gun violence in a year than Chicago might lose in a month.

Chicago’s experts and pundits continue the work of compressing racialized social policy, private exploitation and theft from vulnerable communities, and unequal legal treatment into the neat package of “gang violence,” before trotting out shopworn solutions steeped in law-and-order rhetoric, or flat-out martial law. This tactic shifts the dialogue from systemic failures to community failures, and it’s a conversation the communities can never win. For that matter, it’s one the police can never win either, as it forces them into an even more adversarial relationship with the communities they’re sworn to protect. It seems our politicians are taking notes.

Despite Chow’s hyperbole, the facts speak for themselves. Our communities are getting safer. Immigrants to this country are working hard, playing by the rules, and adopting our country’s values. Previously, when I spoke out against Rob Ford’s support within these same misrepresented, under-supported communities, I wrote that his tactic is paternalism. Within a poor area, he doles out favours and dispensations, cultivating gratitude and a sense of dependence. Outside, he threatens more affluent neighbourhoods with the spectre that if he were not there to protect them, the inmates would run amok. This language is marginalizing, and it’s unacceptable.

This is what we have come to expect from Ford, but we can’t continue to allow it to infect our discourse. This is why the dog-whistle politics of handgun alarmism in Toronto is unequivocally unacceptable. It’s time to do better, and I expect better from Olivia Chow—from anyone proclaiming themselves to be progressive, or an ally.

Andray Domise is running for Toronto City Council in Ward 2 (Etobicoke North).

Comments

  • wklis

    At the city hall level, she can ask city council to REQUEST, that’s all. Better than not requesting anything. The federal government has to hear it from the lower levels of government, and regular citizens as well. The more the federal government hears it, they may actually do something about guns.

    • OgtheDim

      Then why bother make it a big announcement?

      Why go to Keele and Shepperd?
      Why get a row of black kids in behind as a back drop?
      Why crow about how great the photo op was for getting the media out (see Warren Kinsella)?

      I’ll tell ya why:
      Cause her team thinks this thing gets the downtown progressives to give her more money and work harder for her. And they think they know what’s best.
      “See, we are helping those poor people out in the inner suburbs. And they like us. See their smiles. ”

      Reminds me of a World Vision ad.

      More to the point, this attitude is colonialism. Right out of “the white man’s burden” except take the phrase white man out and change it for the words downtown progressive.

      Its not the job of the downtown progressives to fix the suburbs. Nor is it the job of the inner suburb car owner right winger to tell the downtown how to live.

      We are all of us in this together. And the sooner we start listening to each other the better.

      • torontothegreat

        More to the point, this attitude is colonialism. Right out of “the white man’s burden” except take the phrase white man out and change it for the words downtown progressive.

        LOLWUT?????????????????????????

        Some people actually SUFFER through colonialism. This isn’t even remotely comparable. What a piece of crap you are for minimizing a word that invokes murder, rape and theft to make (yet another) political cheap shot at Chow.

        Did Olivia Chow kick your puppy or something? You’re worse than a rabid Ford supporter.

    • KenStar41

      If that was the case, she should’ve done it when she was you know…an MP…IN OTTAWA. She didn’t.

    • Freedom

      Yes like ease the restrictions on them.

  • OgtheDim

    Chow would have made a great mayor – if she had dropped out of Ottawa in 2015 and spent 2 years going around the city listening to people. Chow’s handlers and brain trust think they know best based on their ideas of what is best.

    In some ways, not all that different from Ford.

    • dsmithhfx

      Tell us about the massage parlour, the subsidized rent, the expenses…

      • AlyssaMoh

        we need less massage parlours and more opportunities, more subsidized rentals so people can live near work and walk, instead of having to commute or ttc, and our expenses need to be looked at from community to community. Not all communities need tennis courts, and not all communities need community dentistry, or senior health links.

        • dsmithhfx

          Great answer, but my sarcasm was directed at Og, who has strayed dangerously far into cheap shot land.

          • AlyssaMoh

            I`m a skimmer when I read. Sorry.
            But your point stands, and is noted.

          • OgtheDim

            Listening is a cheap shot?!?!

            As I’ve stated before, I’ve worked in some of those communities in my past. I don’t come at this issue from a lack of experience in how progressives deal with these issues.

          • dsmithhfx

            Making up stuff like “Chow’s handlers and brain trust think they know best based on their ideas of what is best.” is a cheap shot. Glossing over Chow’s background as the daughter of poor immigrants, and record as a community activist and successful politician representing the city’s largest ward is a cheap shot. Hypocrisy is a cheap shot. More?

            To your credit, this all pretty uncharacteristic stuff.

          • OgtheDim

            Oh, I wish this was made up. As I said, I’ve seen this before.

          • dsmithhfx

            The elephant in the room here is wealth redistribution, the other kind. Everything else is hissy fits and band aids.

            Let’s see any candidate, progressive or conservative, try and float that one.

            Gwan Andray, I dares ya!

          • torontothegreat

            Your observations are skewed by your blind hatred for Chow. Are you racist or something?

          • ephena

            You think she should get a pass for announcing policy that is not based in fact because she has a good record? Good politicians make mistakes, and it is blindly partisan to let them off the hook for it. Serves no one well.

          • dsmithhfx

            Her policy regarding handguns as announced, is to pressure Ottawa into banning handguns.

            That’s not a mistake; it’s good policy. It ought to be in every candidate’s platform. Too bad it even needed to be said. But obviously, it did. It has brought attention and discussion to an aspect that has gone unmentioned in the mayoral race, to everyone’s shame.

            And it’s not the only thing she announced at that preess conference, but I guess you didn’t notice.

          • KenStar41

            Isn’t “pressuring Ottawa” more suited to what her role was as an MP?

            Did she address this issue at all while she was ya know…IN OTTAWA?

          • dsmithhfx

            So she lost your vote. OK.

          • veryproudwhiteman

            What a sheep..bahahahahaaaa
            ban hand guns? think for yourself you failed liberal marxist.

          • Freedom

            No it’s not a good policy.

      • veryproudwhiteman

        Massage parlour?..it was getting a hand job,well it is a kind of massage?..subsidized rent is nothing..it’s still subsidized with taxpayer slave money,,,what’s the point?..your all brainwashed sheep.

    • torontothegreat

      She lived in Toronto her entire life. Assuming she is older than you and her role in City Hall for 14 years, not to mention all of the amazing community work she has done virtually her ENTIRE life – I’d say you’re completely talking out of your ass.

      What do YOU know about; what is “best” for Torontonians?

  • Kevin Bracken

    I do agree with a few points; specifically that Toronto is the safest city in North America over a million people, and that people who stir up fear of gun violence are often doing it for an ulterior motive. See: Peter Kent in 2006, who held a rally in Dundas Square with chalk-outlined bodies. Uhhh yeah Pete, not exactly a war zone out there in Toronto, Canada.

    However, we do know that a preponderance of Toronto’s remaining gun violence is gang related; that gangs remain a means to avoid socializing young men into Canada’s pacifist, law-abiding culture, and instead socialize them into a belief system that is more at home on the streets of Baltimore or Detroit than Toronto. The ideas that the world is dangerous, that one should be armed, that a lack of respect for the law is an admirable trait, and that you cannot trust strangers.

    Crime generally falls into the lap of a mayor, and how she deals with crime is seen as a benchmark of an administration. We owe ourselves in Toronto a round of applause for creating such a safe city, but there is always room for improvement.

    • KenStar41

      lol. Ppl join gangs to avoid socializing…or to survive?

      • Kevin Bracken

        Socializing in the “instilling social beliefs into a person” meaning – not “hanging out with friends” meaning

        • KenStar41

          Ppl join gangs to survive and to make money.

          • HotDang

            I read in “Freakonomics” that street level drug dealers make less than minimum wage. If they are in it for the money, they would be much better off elsewhere.

          • KenStar41

            There is no “elsewhere”. That’s why they join gangs. (waiting for you to reply with disbelief).

          • thisischris

            This is not true. There is McDonald’s, etc.

          • KenStar41

            LOLOLOLOL! I grew up in Falstaff. There’s a Harvey’s, McDonald’s and KFC on 3 of 4 corners at the main intersection. Do you know how many of us worked at them? None.

          • thisischris

            I know many from Falstaff, Chalkfarm — all of Jane really, from Woolner to Driftwood — who didn’t participate in crime or gang activity. I’m sure you do, too.

            Some joined gangs, some didn’t. Just as in all things, some make good decisions, some bad.

          • KenStar41

            Decisions are predicated by OPPORTUNITY. For every one of us that had that opportunity, there are a ton that didn’t.

            Which is exactly why when ppl ask me “why didn’t you end up like that” I NEVER take credit and always attribute it to the lucky breaks I had that just weren’t available to alot of others.

          • thisischris

            I guess that’s the premise I disagree with. There are just too many counterfactuals. Too many real “started from the bottom” stories.

            Every gangster I know or have known, including murderers, could have *easily* been much more. There was always plenty of opportunity.

            In any case, anecdotes are poor substitutes for analysis, and I don’t want to drag this out. Cheers!

          • KenStar41

            Yes…plenty of opportunities in a society where college educated black people face the same employment opportunities as White people with criminal records and even less chances than white high school drop outs. lolol.

            What chance do you think a kid from the hood with next to no option to go or even stay in post-secondary has?

            Can you even equality, bro?

          • HotDang

            There is no “elsewhere”.

            Sorry. Was unaware you were talking about gang members in The Phantom Zone. You should mention that next time.

          • torontothegreat

            Put down the book…

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            To make money maybe. Their survival isn’t at stake until they join a gang.

          • KenStar41

            Again, you ppl have no idea the absurd amount of poverty in Toronto and specifically those areas. You need to eat. You need to be able to afford to move around. You need to be able to have a roof over your head. Those are all “survival”.

            And when you live in a gang infested neighbourhood, yes, you do need the gang to surivive, because all your enemies know is you’re from enemy territory and you’re fair game whether you’re “active” or not.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            It sounds like you’re saying nearly everyone is a member of one gang or another and there are literally dozens of people killed, by gangs, regularly, because gangs rule these neighbourhoods. I don’t think either of those are true, but I’d love to see your evidence.

          • KenStar41

            No. By living in an area, you’re “affiliated”. So, when you have rival gangs, say from Falstaff and Finch warring, someone like me, who’s on his way to his night job gets confronted by a gang member from Finch, because I got on the bus at Falstaff…because I’m a “Falstaff man”, irrespective of whether I’m part of any of the active gangs in Falstaff.

            Or like another time when my friends and I were coming from a dance competition, only to find out from another mutual friend that we had our asses saved because some Regent Park guys saw us walking and recognized someone in our crew who was from Woolner and said “those guys are from Woolner, they’re Gators”…a local gang from Woolner and it was only because one of the senior guys knew the rest of us and called off the beating that was headed our way. None of us were “banging”, but because we’re from rival areas, it’s our problem.

            I could go on and on. It’s just the way it is. How do you ppl think these gangs form in the first place? Throw in the economic impetus and boom. You got your “gang banger”.

          • torontothegreat

            Don’t bother. Unless you’re speaking with people that have grown up in total poverty, surrounded by gangs and the opportunities that come with it – they know not what they speak of…

          • torontothegreat

            Because money has nothing to do with survival… Yup, there’s a leap of logic…

    • anditern

      The guns are for settling disputes related to the manufacture and distribution of prohibited substances and has expanded exponentially ever since the so-called war on drugs began. The underground market does not settle disputes using contracts and courts. And it is way more successful at recruiting employees, with main distribution points in schools, and providing youth with a sense of power, belonging and hopefulness. Much more so than the boring, denigrating, unstable, insecure, low paying jobs offered by the “legitimate” market. They see the widening gap between rich and poor and how some people can ruthlessly make up non-existent financial products, bankrupt the whole world and get bailed out and no one goes to jail. What about blacks and aboriginals being searched, arrested, and convicted at several times the rate of whites for no reason? Respect for the law? You mean the law that never convicts police for brutalizing citizens even when there is visual, video evidence?

  • HotDang

    What we should do, globally, is ban all gun manufacturing, and destroy any that currently exist.

    • thisischris

      “Good luck.” – 3D printer

      • HotDang

        Any machine shop can make a gun, and you could probably make a crappy substitute with junk from any hardware store.

        What I’m saying is remove the desire for guns. Give peace a chance.

        • thisischris

          You’re going to remove the desire for guns by banning manufacturing, confiscating and destroying property? Good luck.

          • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

            “Good luck.”
            —We learn that 3D printers have become sentient and are commenting on Torontoist.

            Of course, once the desire (“crazed, irrational fetish”?) for guns is gone, people will stop manufacturing them and destroy them gladly.

          • andrew97

            redacted

    • Freedom

      What a foolish statement.

  • dsmithhfx

    I suppose running against Olivia Chow in Ward 2 is one way of gaining media attention.

  • cv

    Great piece, AD.
    Side note; Kinsella was quite rude to AD, and he is also hurting OC’s chances.

  • Lavender

    I personally don’t believe people should own handguns – what the hell do they need them for? But I’m pretty sure criminals don’t buy their guns from Bass Pro Shops. It just doesn’t make sense to be talking about gun violence at this juncture if it’s on the decrease and communities are working hard to address the core issues. And the racialized backdrop? It’s really hard to get past how blind Chow and her team must have been not to realize how wrong that was. My advice to Olivia is to give her head a shake, spend some time with real community leaders, and hire new campaign staff. There’s no excuse for this kind of fuck up.

    • KenStar41

      Chow and her team weren’t “blind”. They knew exactly what they were doing. https://storify.com/KenBryan/with-friends-like-these

      • OgtheDim

        That tweet about the coverage in CP24 just makes my skin crawl.

      • Lavender

        I agree that privilege is the problem, but I’m not so sure that they’re consciously wielding it rather than simply being blind to it. Here’s why I say that: Why on earth would you alienate communities whose votes aren’t guaranteed for the benefit of people who were going to vote for you anyway (and in the process turn off even some of them)? If Chow’s goal is to gain support (what else would it be?), then clearly they miscalculated any way you look at it. Ultimately, it doesn’t make much difference to me whether they intentionally used marginalized communities as a justification for this policy; the fact that they did is bad enough.

        And giving JOHN TORY of all people an excuse to scold her on privilege? Like they say on Trailer Park Boys: “Prick job that was, buddy.”

    • Freedom

      I personally believe law abiding people should own handguns if they so choose.

  • michaelgreason

    This article makes me sad. I don’t like guns and I wish they were better controlled. Our Federal government, unfortunately, has moved in the opposite direction. I agree that a Mayor can do little to control guns, but grassroots feedback is always helpful in channelling public opinion and building consensus. Perhaps one day we will have a federal government that will listen and control guns more effectively.

    Never for a minute would I have considered gun control to be a marginalising tactic to be used against any community. Guns don’t wreak their havoc just on one community or racial or cultural group. Guns kill without any discrimination at all – and in the hands of young people they create two ruined lives – the dead or injured as well as the perpetrator who, in a fit of youthful bravado – has ruined (usually) his own life as well. Guns also turn harmless, or a least relatively less harmful, situations such as domestic disputes into tragedy. Domestic disputes are not limited any any community – they happen to all races from the richest to the poorest. Guns fall into the hands of sad and desperate people who do awful things such as murdering police officers.

    The bottom line is that the more guns there are – the more tragedies take place. People concerned about gun violence have every right to speak out without fear of being labeled as unfair to any community. The bottom line, I fear, is that articles such as this one are in themselves discriminatory and marginalising. Let’s get on with building a great city as equals, not as representatives or spokespeople for any community that is defined by culture or race. Let’s all be Torontonians – each of us proud as individuals of our background, culture and race, but working together for the same goals and projects.

    • KenStar41

      N. America isn’t a colour blind society, it’s heavily colour coded and the colour on the bottom is Black.

      https://storify.com/KenBryan/with-friends-like-these

    • Lavender

      In other words, race doesn’t matter, and that’s why Chow chose a black community to stand in front of when she was talking about guns?

      • dsmithhfx

        There’s no denying that the black community is most impacted by gun violence, with the most victims. If Chow was angling for votes in that community from people who are sick of living in fear, it was a smart move, and the right thing to do.

        Can you imagine the howls of derision if she made her announcement in Rosedale? Oh, she’s ignoring the real problem! Oh, she won’t come to our neighborhood!

        The protest over her approach is misdirected, and seems exaggerated to score political points by her opponents and the candidate for Council who cynically instigated it.

        Why not call for dialogue, instead of pounce-and-denounce?

        • Lavender

          The point here is that while the black community is most impacted by gun violence, they don’t seem to be the ones asking for a ban on legally purchased handguns. So where is this policy coming from, and why? That’s the question.

          • dsmithhfx

            Jesus. Are you serious?

          • Lavender

            No, I’m just dicking around so you can ask me if I’m serious rather than contribute a response of your own.

          • dsmithhfx

            “So where is this policy coming from, and why?”

            Um… guns might be bad? Hello?

          • Lavender

            It’s almost like you didn’t read the article (did you?). Either you believe what Andray is saying – that the black community has worked hard *on its own* and made satisfactory progress – or you don’t. Because I’d like to know why, if this was a grassroots-inspired policy, are members of the black community, including community leaders and organizers, wondering why Chow ventured into their community to publicize her plans for gun control. Whether guns are good or bad is beside the point.

          • dsmithhfx

            Banning guns is the whole point, the only point, and everybody should be on board with that instead of getting all nitpicky about how it was announced. Obviously everyone has their own agenda in this. Beyond that, though the consensus should be pretty damn clear.

          • Guest

            Oh, I see that you’re the “massage parlour! subsidized rent!” kind of sensationalist, too. Now I see why you don’t get it.

          • andrew97

            So your answer is, no, you didn’t read the article.

          • dsmithhfx

            Wrong. I did read the article, and it has some problems. The author/instigator of this ‘controversy’ is a candidate for political office, and is clearly pushing an agenda.

            He wants media visibility, and ballot box name recognition in one ward, through ‘ownership’ of an issue that affects every single person across this city.

            A few questions: how does this prove he can work with others to accomplish political goals? You know, if he actually wins a seat on Council. Or is it just going to be this type of grandstanding? How does that help?

            Does he really believe that a white-bread, millionaire corporate overlord is going to do better by the people he claims to be speaking for, than the mayoral candidate he has unfairly ambushed?

            See, impugning somebody’s motives is a two-edged blade.

          • andrew97

            The point of the article is, if you have the urge to use Rexdale as a backdrop, maybe check yourself because the residents have enough trouble with stereotypes and might not appreciate being used as a prop. I think this is a reasonable comment. And although I enjoy your argument that council candidates are somehow compromised when they express an opinion about their ward, Domise is not the only one saying this.

          • dsmithhfx

            Mr. Domise is sidestepping and seeking to minimize an extremely serious issue that festers and continues to plague this city. This denial helps nobody. I sincerely hope it doesn’t help advance his political aspirations, because surely Ward 2 deserves better.

            In contrast, Olivia Chow has advanced concrete measures to help distressed communities, by providing after school programs and employment opportunities for young people — and by pressing Ottawa for a hand gun ban.

            On this Mr Domise heaps scorn and feigned offense.

            I have yet to hear a cogent explanation from Domise or his acolytes how his response makes any damn sense, as in what possible good can come from it?

          • OgtheDim

            Are you seriously suggesting the only way to be serious about dealing with gun violence is to believe that banning handguns is important?!?!?!

          • KenStar41

            No. The author is a pissed off Black man who’s tired of “progressives” acting like friends in one instance, then doing shit that hurts us in another.

          • dsmithhfx

            Says you.

          • KenStar41

            “banning guns is the only point” if you want to “do something” that won’t do anything.

          • taureau

            dsmithhfx,

            How many people in these poor communities have LEGAL ownership of firearms? I’m guessing not many if any. Most people with guns in these communities are affiliated w. gangs and get most their guns State-side. Do you think these gang members are going to just give their guns away because Olivia says so?
            It’s fine and dandy to talk Gun Control, but if you’re going to go into one of these communities to do a media event touting your proposal for gun control, at least it should be effective to those communities.

          • dsmithhfx

            You’re right that the problem largely originates stateside, the gun-nut capital of the universe. Asking our federal government for a hand gun ban is an important symbolic gesture that will not, in and of itself, solve the problem. The problem must be attacked in many other ways as well.

            But it is a start where others propose nothing, because not invented here? Really?

            All that needs to be separated from Olivia Chow’s statement which was part of her mayoral campaign. People are all shocked, shocked that she would speak to the whole city at a campaign press conference. Well guess what, that’s how a mayoral campaign works. That’s what mayoral candidates do.

            It’s not about pitting neighbor against neighbor, or shaming a community as some would try to frame this. Let critics like Andray Domise float their own proposals in a citywide political campaign. They will soon learn the constraints of working within a deeply flawed and inherently unjust structure.

            And I’m guessing ‘please continue to do nothing and stay the fuck out’ will not prove too popular among their own constituents.

          • andrew97

            If it’s a symbolic gesture then it’s fair game to question the symbolism.

          • dsmithhfx

            Political leaders (good and bad) trade in symbolism. It’s how they get elected.

            As a symbolic gesture, “I told off the downtown elites” will only take you so far. Ask RF.

          • OgtheDim

            Why get on board with an idea that will do nothing to help anybody?

            Its pandering to progressives.

          • dsmithhfx

            OK: you hate progressives, and you sure aren’t going to get on board or pander. Congratulations. What else?

          • OgtheDim

            I despise pandering, no matter what point of you it comes from or is aimed at.

            That you classify that as hate is your issue.

          • dsmithhfx

            Sorry, I still haven’t heard your proposal.

          • taureau

            Well,

            One propsal I can think of is to ask the Feds is to enhanced the security of illegal gun trade between the borders of the States & Canada. I believe the Feds had cut services to Border Security in 2011. Maybe is just a “symbolic gesture”, but at least it would be more effective then a handgun ban.

          • dsmithhfx

            “We need better gun control,” Chow said, flanked by children from the Toronto City Mission’s Sonshine day camp. “We have a mayor that for the last four years justified the use of guns. He opposed the long-gun registry. What I want to do is work with big-city mayors to tighten control so there’s no illegal guns coming from the States. And we need a ban on handguns.”

            http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/toronto2014election/2014/07/14/olivia_chow_calls_for_handgun_ban_john_tory_says_empty_gesture.html

          • taureau

            That’s fine is she wants to work with big-city mayors to tighten control so there’s no illegal guns coming from the States, which ever that means. My point is that her handgun ban is unnecessary. When you weigh the potential effectiveness of it against other people’s legal right to acquire & store firearms SAFELY, which by statistics these owners are already doing, I just don’t see the upside for the ban.

        • torontothegreat

          There’s no denying that the black community is most impacted by gun violence, with the most victims, in the City of Toronto

          Fixed that for you. Cause natives are FAR more impacted by gun violence outside of Toronto than any black people are. If we were talking about the U.S. ,yes you have a point. Not Canada.

          • dsmithhfx

            Thanks for pointing that out, I did not know that (I think I assumed that outside of Toronto, BC and parts of Nova Scotia, most victims of gun violence would be white).

    • http://www.leschinskidesign.com/contact/addme picard102

      Owning a gun is heavily regulated. You need a permit to even take it out of your home. More regulations on gun ownership wont affect people buying guns illegally.

    • taureau

      The problem is that there is zero to little correlation between gun crimes in poor and gang infested communities & legal gun ownership in Toronto. Most gun crimes in these communities are gangs who buy their guns in the black market from the United States. Most people who own guns legally are white middle/upper Caucasian males who tend not to live in these communities.
      Miss Chow’s goes to a poor community to tout on a proposal that would have no effect on the well-being of these residents. It shows not only a lack of understanding of the problems of these residents, it also puts a division between legal gun owners & other residents for no reason but fear & politics.

  • Notcleverguy

    If you scroll down the link, you’ll see gun homicides at this point in 2014 are just one behind all of 2013, and we’re only in July (heaven forbid we have more)

    http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/statistics/ytd_stats.php

    I have heard that gun violence is in steady decline a few times. The numbers actually show that it fluctuates up and down, and right now in 2014 it’s on an uptick trend, just as it increased from 2011 to 2012.

    While Chow was tone def in using kids as props (It was a dumb move) and I empathize with what Andrey is saying in this well written article. The issue here isn’t weather we have a conversation about possible gang violence or not depending on where a shooting occurred, It isn’t about who used what hyperbole, the issue is getting guns off the street. not just in some neighborhoods, but in all of Toronto, because gun violence effects all of us, in every corner of the city.

    • KenStar41

      “gun violence affects us all”…only black kids are dying. stfu. you ppl are part of the problem. If you want to there are already laws to get guns off the street. What you want is a solution to get guns out of people’s hands. For that, you have to ask WHY are they using guns. And that WHY doesn’t “affect us all”.

      • Notcleverguy

        “only black kids are dying”

        You’re an idiot.

      • OgtheDim

        Ur hyperbole isn’t helping.

        • KenStar41

          Neither is arguing semantics ;) “only”…”mostly”. Happy? The salient point is the majority of the victims are disproportionately “black” and that’s because of the particular socio-economic sphere that being Black in N. America forces you to occupy.

          That thing that forces us to occupy that sphere doesn’t affect “all communities”, because not “all communities” are FORCED into occupying that sphere.

          So the answer can’t be “generic” when forces are acting against a “specific” segment of the population.

          It’s disingenuous at best. Downright dangerous at worst, because we’ll never get to real solutions because we’re not dealing with the real issue.

          The issue isn’t “guns on the street” there are already a ton of laws and regulations for illegal gun possession and legal gun ownership respectively to deal with that.

          The issue is WHY are these particular subsets of people resorting to using guns. Who amongst that particular subset are using them and why?

          This handgun ban bullshit doesn’t help any of that. All it does is give the semblance of “doing something” when it does NOTHING.

  • surewood

    this isn’t about speaking to her political base – this is about Olivia trying to reach out to the middle class who may be more prone to vote conservative – it’s an empty gesture (and Chow has enough community and political experience to know it) – this was a strategic decision about woo-ing moderate conservative…

    • Lavender

      The one thing that seems to contradict that theory is the fact that conservatives – whether moderate or hardcore – aren’t generally fans of gun control.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        Perhaps in rural Canada, where gun control means rifles and registration. Urban conservatives are generally huge fans of “tough on crime” stances, and going after guns – and gangs – fits into that.

    • KenStar41

      And we see how well that worked out for Horwath. lol.

  • anonymous_66

    Post-secondary degrees among different ethnic groups is a pretty poor statistical metric for looking at whether or not gun violence is truly associated with low-income African-Canadian neighbourhoods.

    If perpetrator statistics aren’t directly available, the next best measure would probably be victim statistics.

    • anditern

      Well no. If, as is the case, second generation blacks are better educated and have more degrees than the general population, and studies show that they are hired at a reduced rate (1/3) to whites and they are not retained and promoted, then that tells us important information about systemic barriers for blacks. It then makes it easier to understand why more will fall and be crushed. But this is continually ignored because no one wants to acknowledge what they thought was personal success due to good decisions, merit, and effort, was not actually fairly gained. My observation is that most privileged people are able to grudgingly accept that there is some injustice in the world (especially at Xmas where they bleat on about the less fortunate, lol). But they can’t accept the corollary which is that what they have was not justly earned. Comparing differences between how two groups with equal credentials are treated is entirely relevant.

      • anonymous_66

        There may well still be racism in professional hiring, but that’s not really the point the author was trying to make. He was saying that because one third of black youth are going to college or university, which is apparently higher than the general population rate, black youth are thus academically high-achieving and can’t possibly by disproportionately involved in gang shootings.

        It’s a facile and simplistic argument that pretends socioeconomic inequality doesn’t exist within the black demographic. The elite one third of black youth going to to post-secondary schooling still leaves another two thirds who aren’t – mostly in pretty poor neighbourhoods. Now, an argument can certainly be made that that poverty is due to racism, but the fact remains that most of the shooting victims whose faces we see on the news are young black men who were either involved in the life and gunned down by rivals, or had the bad luck to get caught in the crossfire.

        • anditern

          I don’t agree the writer pretends there is economic equality among blacks though I agree there is a bit of distancing himself from those blacks who are “lower”. I get he is saying the higher education, high achievement levels, and reduced crime figures are not mentioned. It isn’t that there is 1/3 elite and everyone else at the bottom. There are distribution curves showing continuums which vary for blacks and for whites, that is, the median for blacks is much lower than the median for equally qualified whites. This speaks to the “why” of your last paragraph. Yes, it was pointed out that more shooting victims are black. Now let’s move on to why such as the well documented differential treatment of blacks. You speak about what is seen on the news. Well let’s examine confirmation bias, attribution errors and other reasons people disproportionately remember some faces as associated with certain acts than others and how this impacts beliefs about people including self identity. But that’s another topic.

          • anonymous_66

            You agree the victims are disproportionately black, and then go on accuse me of confirmation bias two sentences later for noting that very thing about the victims we see on TV?

            How are Torontonians supposed to have an honest conversation about fixing the root causes of gang-related handgun violence if activist vested interests like the author are more concerned with denying there’s a violence issue in low income and predominantly black neighbourhoods at all?

          • anditern

            I didn’t accuse you if anything. But I repeat, that blacks can be better educated than their counterparts (which is never stated in the news) and can be more highly represented as gun violence victims (which is excitedly reported on daily basis) can exist together as facts. You keep repeating the second part. I keep repeating so lets look at why. Racism in employment and in general is not a maybe, it is and has been well documented for decades. What is your explanation for this discrepancy you keep restating? If it is just blame the victim and ignore the racism, the writer has challenged that idea. Blacks are doing a lot to turn things around for themselves. Do you have any other ideas?

  • Jason

    Not sure if it’s internet explorer or Torontoist that keeps deleting my comments…

    • TorontoistEditors

      They weren’t deleted—comments show up automatically if you’re pre-registered with Disqus. If you’re not, they go into a queue for moderation. Your comment was approved as soon as we came across it.

  • taureau

    For myself,

    Chow’s proposal is not only insulting to people living in gang infested communities in Toronto but it’s downright bad policy. Sodnacki puts it best when he mentions the troubles in Chicago. What these kids need is a better living standard not a ban on a gun which wouldn’t effect them anyway because they purchased guns illegally from the States. In a way, Chow’s playing the same card as Rob Ford but in this case pitting legal gun owners against everyone else based on little to no correlation between gun crimes in Toronto and legal ownership.

  • ephena

    Just FYI, the article talked about communities, plural. This is not a Black Youth issue exclusively, and talking about it as if it were is really far off the mark, and says a lot about what people think of when they talk about gang violence. The shooting at Yorkdale last winter was gang related, but apparently related to asian gangs (just as an example, there are many).

    The candidates would probably do better if they stopped making pronouncements about what they think will make your average, middle class voter feel like they are doing something about violence/poverty/homelessness/mental health. They could get more out of asking community leaders, who are doing the actual work, and doing well with it, what they think is needed. Then they could take that knowledge and educate the voters about what actually needs to be done, like, I don’t know, leaders maybe? I don’t expect politicians to know exactly what to do to solve every problem, what I expect of them is to be smart enough to know where to go for the right information, and then act on that information, instead of fear mongering and pandering.

    That goes for listening to transit experts on transit, planners on city building issues, educators on education, and community leaders on what those communities need to continue to improve the situation for the people they serve.

    • KenStar41

      Jesus H. Christ. “This is not a Black Youth issue” yes it is. A POOR black youth issue, because society is unfair and holds all kinds of barriers to keep black youth in poverty and remove any sort of hope or opportunity. If you want to fix the problem, you fix the greater societal issues. Not “ban guns” because IT WON’T HELP. Signed someone who’s had more than his fair share of experience with “gun violence” at both ends.

      • ephena

        You really missed what i said. There is more to gang violence than black youth. There are gangs from many communities. The shooting at Yorkdale was an asian gang. There are a lot of others. Gun bans won’t fix this. Listening to what the various communities actually want and need might. You can’t pin all the violence and all the responsibility for fixing it on just the black community, as if that were even one thing.

        • KenStar41

          I think we’re talking past each other, so I’m gonna take a step back and say Olivia Chow held this in a center named after a murdered black youth, surrounded by black youth and name checked a murdered black man…so tell me again how this “isn’t a black youth” issue.

          I think I get what you are trying to say, but don’t act like societal phenomenon don’t affect different members of that society differently or that people like myself or Andray shouldn’t be talking about that disproportionate effect. Maybe you are trying to say “the solution doesn’t lie in the black community” and indeed, it doesn’t, because we aren’t the ones denying ourselves jobs, housing or the opportunity for upward mobility.

          That being said, the disproportionate effect of those societal inequities are “black youth”.

          ps kudos for acknowledging there isn’t a monolithic “black community” but one battle at a time ;)

      • Notcleverguy

        KenStar41 is an idiot.

        • anditern

          Clearly, qualifications for becoming thoracic surgeons does not require the ability to write cogent arguments.

      • torontothegreat

        Jesus H. Christ. “This is not a Black Youth issue” yes it is. A POOR black youth issue

        No. It’s a poverty issue, plain and simple. I can disprove that statement in one sentence: “Aboriginal gang violence in Canada”

    • OgtheDim

      “This is not a Black Youth issue”

      It is if you are black.

      It also is because of the backdrop used by Chow.

      • ephena

        “not a Black Youth issue _exclusively_” I was trying to say that in the article Domise talked about multiple communities. Chow obviously wanted to make it about one community, because that is an easy stereotype to sell gun violence on.

        • dsmithhfx

          So now you have her selling gun violence. Nice.

          • ephena

            No, I have her, like most politicians from all sides, using stereotypes and hot button issues to bolster their platform.

          • dsmithhfx

            There are plenty of candidates who aren’t doing that for you to get behind (truthfully though, I have no idea what the 50-odd other registered candidates are saying or doing along the saintly-banal-nutty continuum).

          • ephena

            I like her, and I like most of what she is saying. I just think that banning hand guns, while maybe not a bad idea, is going to have less of an impact than investing in programs that work towards prevention, and announcing a desire for a gun ban completely wiped her policy on after school programs and community-based solutions off the map. A call for a handgun ban is a big, shiny thing that distracts from the less attractive, but more effective interventions. Strategies for supporting youth are harder to get people to get behind, especially when you have people calling them Hug a Thug, and a waste of money on kids who are already in trouble.

          • dsmithhfx

            “announcing a desire for a gun ban completely wiped her policy on after school programs and community-based solutions off the map”

            Sure, for a few people who have an axe to grind on that particular subject, put their hands over their ears and start screaming ‘nyah nyah nyah I can’t hear you!’

            For everyone else: not.

  • taureau

    I believe the author’s point is that Olivia’s problem is that her proposed gun ban will be lacking in effectiveness in these communities. Think about it, how many people in these communities have purchased a handgun legally or could afford a gun all together? Don’t think that the gangs are going to give back their guns if Olivia says so. So who exactly will this handgun ban effect?

  • KenStar41

    No, his point is “progressives” shouldn’t be using dog whistle politics that negatively affect the communities and people in those communities that they claim to want to help. When you have to change your address to increase your odds of MAYBE getting a call back for a job, then you’d understand.

  • dsmithhfx

    Anyone wondering where all this is coming from might want to check out AD’s cozy tweets about John Tory.

    Has a deal been struck? Inquiring minds want to know.