Gun violence in East York and Toronto is on the rise. From 2014 to 2017 the rate of police-reported community violence increased by 14 per cent to 641 per 100,000 residents, according to a recent report on trends in community violence in Toronto.
The increase is due to many potential factors, including poverty and mental illness.
“We vastly underestimate the impact guns have on society,” trauma surgeon Dr. Najma Ahmed says.
Ahmed works at St Michael Garron Hospital. As a surgeon, she sees the effects of gun violence daily. She cities the 2018 Danforth shooting as a turning point to discuss gun violence in East York.
“The event changed the whole community and the way the community views itself,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed is one of the founders of Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG), an organization that advocates for increased funding to addresses gun violence, and is a member of the executive team.
CDPG is calling for a ban on assault weapons, as well as a “red flag law” to reduce suicide by gun death. The proposal also aims to reduce to promote mental health checks for patients.
Along with pushing for policy changes, CDPG also holds community meetings in collaboration with the Toronto Public Libraries. These meetings are held as a way to address and bring public awareness to gun violence.
Members of the East York community are encouraged to debate and propose policy solutions.
Commons solutions proposed during meetings include a handguns ban and harsher sentencing for illicit arms dealing. A less common solution is a to reinstate the death penalty into Canada law.
The mental health side of the gun violence issue often goes unaddressed, says psychologist Julie Maggi.
“You don’t get a second chance to interact with the healthcare system,” she says, describing the trauma that gun violence causes.
Maggi believes the mental health issues that gun violence causes are equal to or even greater than physical damage. Long mental illnesses can include PTSD and anxiety as well as trauma.
Firearm-related violence doubled among youth increased to 102 accused persons per 100,000 residents from 2013 to 2017.