Tar­get gangs – not just guns – to curb gang vi­o­lence

Winnipeg Sun - - COMMENT -

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.

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