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The Real Costs of Gun Violence

From the families of the victims of the Montreal Massacre who have called the Firearms Act a monument to the memory of the victims, to Mothers for Gun Control who have jointly stated “Regardless of race, creed or colour, we need to work together on integrated solutions to curb violence, we need to stand together to defend gun control.”, families of those who have lost their lives to gun violence have been at the forefront of the movement for strong gun control and have fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Elaine Lumley, whose 20-year-old son Aidan was shot and killed while visiting Montreal said during the battle against Bill C-19: “Those of us who have suffered want to prevent others from experiencing what we have experienced and make it harder, not easier, for dangerous people to get access to guns. Even the government-appointed Ombudsman for Victims of Crime has made its position clear, stating that we must do all we can to prevent further tragedies from happening and that includes supporting the tools we have to help keep communities safe.”

Victim’s advocate Priscilla de Villiers wrote to the Parliamentary Committee on Bill C-19 “There are three mechanisms in which the availability of firearms increases violence. Guns instigate violence. Guns facilitate violence. Guns intensify violence.” Victimization involving firearms has an increased risk of multiple victims.

The direct and indirect impacts of firearm violence create numerous obstacles to public safety and health including barriers to education and economic growth. And there are broader psychological effects to every injury and death that are not often measured. Firearms are not only used to kill, they are also used as tools of coercion, to intimidate, injure and subjugate women victims. A gun does not have to be fired to inflict psychological damage and firearm figure prominently in the cycle of violence against women and children. The patterns of weapon use in domestic violence situation have been well documented and often include behaviours such as shooting the family dog as a warning, or cleaning a gun during an argument.

Armed violence has direct and indirect as well as temporary and permanent life-altering consequences for children. Victims may experience psychological trauma, and show symptoms indicative of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These symptoms may also lead to behavioral and developmental changes.

Victim’s advocate Louise Russo who is disabled after being caught in the cross fire in a 2004 Toronto shooting has publicly stated “Instead of focusing on the costs of gun control, politicians should focus on the costs of gun violence and the price paid by victims. I am unable to care for my severely disabled daughter. I am also very worried about the impact on my younger daughter who witnessed my shooting. It has affected her profoundly.”

It is difficult to measure the effect of preventive measures and tragedies averted rarely make headlines. But rigorously implemented strong gun control laws do not prevent all tragedies but they do make it more difficult for dangerous people to get access to firearms. Karen Vanscoy, mother of 14 years old Jasmine, shot and killed in September 1996 said prior to the passage of Bill C-19: “The proposed weakening of our gun laws will make it easier for those at risk of committing acts of violence either towards themselves or others to acquire guns.

“My son’s senseless death is compounded by the disregard the government shows to the families of victims of gun violence and the priority it seems to place on appeasing the vocal gun lobby. Every time that someone loses their son to gun violence, it is as though I have lost my son once more.” said Audette Shephard, Mother of Justin, shot and killed in June 2001.

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