Target gangs – not just guns – to curb gang violence
Growing gun and gang violence across Canada in 2018 left in its swath a trail of victims, broken families and ineffectual calls for gun bans. However, gun bans won’t deter street gangs from violence.
Gang members consider themselves at war with police, society and each other.
They don’t care about the victims of their war. Guns are the tools they use to sustain their business — drug trafficking, prostitution, theft, extortion and fraud.
In Canada’s largest city, Toronto, some 75% of shootings in what’s promising to be a record year of violence are gang related. In Calgary last year, half of all homicides were linked to drugs, gangs or organized crime according to officials. All our cities face rising gang violence.
With a federal election coming in 2019, the Liberals and Conservatives this week offered two distinctively different perspectives on how to address growing gang violence.
Liberal cabinet ministers Ralph Goodale and Bill Blair announced an $86 million plan to combat gun and gang violence at the border — $51.5 million to expand dog training facilities, x-ray machines at postal centers and air cargo facilities and training for border officials. The rest will be used to enhance RCMP capacity for investigations, training, inspections and intelligence.
That will help reduce gun trafficking, but doesn’t directly address gang violence.
The bad guys will respond with increasingly devious attempts to smuggle guns into this country (last month, authorities seized 30 guns concealed inside the gas tank of a rented Nissan Rogue crossing the Peace Bridge at Niagara Falls).
And short of a nation-wide ban on all guns, bans in Toronto or other major cities simply inconveniences those who buy guns legally to sell to criminals to travel outside the city for locally-sourced weapons. Meanwhile, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is proposing to impact street gangs directly.
Scheer plans to address gang-related violence with tougher sentences and stricter bail rules — including denying bail to repeat gang offenders and mandating stiffer sentences for gang members and leaders. He should include harsher sentences for those who sell guns to criminals. Realistically, there’s no easy solutions to gang violence.
But going after gang members directly, as Scheer suggests, and giving prosecutors more tools to put and keep violent thugs behind bars is a good start to actually curb gang violence in our cities.