On a park bench overlooking a green space in the upper beaches, a mother and father of two teenage survivors of the Danforth shooting sit together and reflect.
It’s the very spot where, last summer, a fundraiser was held in honour of their daughters’ friend Reese Fallon.
The 18-year-old was shot and killed on the night of July 22.
Ten-year-old Julianna Kozis also died in the violence and 13 other people were injured.
Claire Smith’s daughter Samantha was hit by gunfire.
“My daughter was shot, injured but she survived … sadly her friend Reese was killed and two of her friends were shot and injured,” Smith said.
Patrick McLeod’s daughter was out with the same group that evening for ice cream.
“I worked as a police officer on the streets of Toronto for 32 years, I’m used to seeing that violence with strangers,” said McLeod.
The parents are part of a group now pushing for a ban on private ownership of handguns and assault rifles.
“We don’t need them in Canada,” said McLeod.
A new Angus Reid Institute public survey study suggests six out of ten Canadians want an outright ban on handguns in this country.
The support rises to three-quarters of Canadians when it comes to a ban on assault weapons.
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“Assault weapons both in Canada and especially in the United States are associated with some pretty terrible crimes, some really profound tragedies and so I think we do see a greater level of support for a ban in that regard,” said Angus Reid Institute executive director Shachi Kurl.
The findings also suggest support for a ban is considerably higher in urban centers than it is in rural parts of the country. Urban respondents worry most about gang activity, while rural Canadians express concern about accidental shootings or guns used for suicide.
“The big driver as to whether you support or oppose a ban on firearms in this country has a lot to do whether you’ve ever owned a firearm, whether you currently own one or if you’ve owned one in the past and of course that has a lot of with where in country you live,” noted Kurl.
Toronto Mayor John Tory has repeatedly called for a handgun ban in the city.
“I think any step in the direction of tighter gun control in Canada is a positive step forward and I will look forward to see what they decide to do,” he said.
Ottawa has been under pressure to tighten gun laws since the Danforth shooting but gun rights advocates say the measure will put unfair limitations on responsible gun owners.
McLeod said he sees it differently.
“They should belong in the hands of the military and police and that’s it,” he said.
“Weapons that we are taking off the streets now used to come from the States. Fifty percent of them now in Toronto alone are coming from gun owners in Canada. They’re being stolen from their homes, their cottages, they’re being stolen from their vehicles, they’re being stolen from gun shops.”
From a park bench in Toronto, McLeod and Smith discussed plans for a memorial for the victims of the Danforth shooting less than two months from now.
It will be a year since the shooting turned their lives upside down.
McLeod said the time for action is now.
“Get off your couches and do something people because it’s going to be your families next,” he said.
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