Though headlines about violent crime in Toronto appear to be a daily occurrence, there is one bit of good news that has received too little mention: There hasn't been a single fatal gun death yet in Canada's largest city this year.
According to data provided by the Toronto police, at this time last year, Toronto recorded 66 shootings, out of which 13 were fatal. In 2023, so far, there have been 19 shootings — and none has been fatal.
According to Louis March, founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement, the decline can be attributed to strong government control and the disruption of illegal guns coming in from across the border.
"I have to give credit where it's due," March said. "Over the last few months, border security, RCMP and counterparts in America have done an excellent job interrupting the flow of guns coming across the border. Also, the feds have put money into anti-gang and gun violence strategies," he added.
Recently, the Canada Border Services Agency lay charges in a firearm investigation and arrested a 30-year-old man for smuggling firearms.
In 2022, the Liberal government's Bill C-21 banned some 1,500 models and variants of firearms, including the AR-15 and Ruger Mini-14 on the grounds that they have no place in hunting or sports.
Moreover, Trudeau announced that the government is looking at a "variety of options" to carry out a buyback of banned firearms after the government estimated that there are approximately 150,000 registered firearms in Canada that would be bought back.
Factors that contribute to gun violence: “Nobody is born with a gun in their hand”
According to March, people can get involved in criminal activity because they don't see an alternative, especially in populations that are "stigmatized, denied access, denied opportunity, denied education, or denied employment."
"While some of them do it just to pay bills to survive, they get on a slippery slope. Soon it escalates to a point where they have to pick up a gun," he said.
"Most of the gun violence, or criminal activity, is mostly in neighbourhoods where poverty is one of the biggest challenges. We usually speak about the 'school to prison pipeline.' The social economics create the perfect ingredients for somebody to use violence as a way out. And worse, our solution to it is not dealing with the root causes — but to arrest them, lock them up and throw the key away," he added.
According to Jackie Sultana Sikdar, a second-year PhD student at York University, there are too many obstacles and limitations in terms of cultural, social, and economic spheres that contribute to crime — including gun violence.
"It's very evident with segregated segregated racialized neighbourhoods who have to bear the brunt of stigma of neglect and and of exclusion, and I think that these social-economic factors and disparities really do contribute to gun violence here," she said.
Our solution to it is not dealing with the root causes — but to arrest them, lock them up and throw the key away.
Plan for the future: “We can't arrest people out of this problem”
According to March and Sikdar, more mobilization in the community combined with policing and government policies can work together like pieces of a "jigsaw puzzle" to reduce gun violence in cities.
"The work—as of late—of community organizations can often go unnoticed," Sikdar said.
"These are the people that truly care. These are the people that are mobilizing to create safe communities. And I think that these organizations are focused on proactive measures rather than reactive measures, which I think is extremely important. It's a complex phenomenon.
"There isn't any one factor that is contributing to this decrease. But we absolutely have to give credit to nonprofit organizations who are fostering these strong social networks who are empowering people to work together, who are empowering people to keep their own community safe ... These organizations are influencing the needed systemic changes," she added.
March also believes that instead of simply investing more in policing, it's important to address the controversial relationship society has with the police system and build the trust between communities and the policing community.
"The police is saying we can solve this problem by ourselves. But we can't arrest people out of this problem. We need to work with community and the relationship between the police and community is not a straight line," he said.
"Is there a history of police brutality? Yes. That stays in the minds of many people, so automatically we don't trust them. They don't trust us. However, the solution means we have to do better at building that trust," he added.