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Mounted police patrol Danforth Avenue where a shooting took place on Sunday evening in Toronto.Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press

Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: letters@globeandmail.com

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Recoiling from guns

The horrific multiple shooting on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue eerily recalls the 1989 massacre of 14 women in Montreal, as well as the killing of three RCMP officers in Moncton in 2014 (Toronto Shooting Has Shattered A Community’s Illusion Of Safety, July 24).

In each of these instances, a mentally deranged young man ran amok using a high-powered firearm. The Montreal massacre resulted in firearms legislation in 1995, including increased screening of firearms users, measures to restrict the availability of high-powered firearms, and increased controls over the acquisition, storage and use of rifles, shotguns and other types of guns.

The RCMP also led nationwide policing efforts to suppress illegal trafficking of firearms used to commit crimes. As we know, the pro-firearms Harper government succeeded in dismantling much of this initiative, including the national firearms registry so important for police officer and public safety.

Unfortunately, instead of restoring these vital elements of public safety, the present Liberal government has focused its efforts mostly on national security and anti-terrorist measures – at the expense of community safety.

It is time for the federal government to provide genuine national leadership in restoring firearms regulatory and enforcement measures essential to ensure the safety of urban and rural communities. In the longer term, the recent history of firearms crimes speaks to the absence of mental health and crime prevention programs for youth at risk.

Scott Burbidge, Port Williams, N.S.

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Toronto Mayor John Tory asks: “Why does anyone need a gun in the city at all?” (Toronto Reels Again, July 24). His question needs to become the rallying call for renewed efforts at gun control. The issue should be simple. Inside the city it should be illegal for anyone, save a small highly-regulated group, to have a gun. Period.

Those who oppose restrictions on guns are mostly in rural areas or smaller towns. One size does not fit all. We need a system, along the lines of the kind of local option that existed in Prohibition times, to allow large urban areas to choose to have special more restrictive rules.

Let’s not be like our American cousins who watch massacre after massacre and do nothing. They have shown us what not to do. Now is the time to act.

Dan Dowdall, Toronto

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The media has reported that the Danforth shooter suffered from mental illness. We do not know yet if he was legally in possession of the gun used in this sad and tragic mass shooting.

The majority of gun deaths in Canada are due to suicide, as a result of depression, and while there may be no unifying template for mass shooters, clearly there are issues of rage and instability. Either way mental health issues and firearms are potentially a very dangerous combination.

In its testimony to the parliamentary committee examining the federal government’s gun bill, C-71, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians called for the mandatory reporting of persons suffering from psychosis and untreated depression to the authorities so that their access to guns could be temporarily restricted.

It may only be a small step in the very complex problem of gun violence in Canada but is one worth taking.

Alan Drummond, MD, co-chair, public affairs, Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, Ottawa

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In the debate over gun ownership, a crucial effect is largely ignored – one Marshall McLuhan brought to the world’s attention decades ago: Merely picking up a tool and using it changes who you are.

Guns are not innocent – they are agents of change. Holding a loaded gun in your hand has an effect on who you are and how you behave, activating certain traits of your humanity and suppressing others. At this moment in Toronto, the city Mr. McLuhan called his own, we would do well to heed his essential message.

Philip Shepherd, Toronto

Not the norm

As details about the behavior and treatment for mental health issues experienced by shooter Faisal Hussain emerge, we need to be careful not to stigmatize people living with mental illness or blame the mental health system for what happened (Toronto Reels Again, July 24).

A study published recently in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry examined homicide rates in Ontario from 1987 to 2012 and found 3.7 per cent of homicides were committed by people with mental illness and there was no increase associated with reductions in inpatient hospitalization.

While the study did show that untreated psychosis was a factor, this suggests that our focus should be on early identification and intervention, rather than the mental health equivalent of “lock them up.” We need to examine whether Mr. Hussain received appropriate care or whether his treatment was episodic, fragmented care, which unfortunately is too often the case.

We also need to examine whether the Mental Health Act was properly applied, as it does provide for hospitalization when someone is dangerous to themselves or others.

Steve Lurie, executive director, Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto branch, Toronto

Learned behaviour?

The first few pages of Tuesday’s paper were devoted to my city’s latest tragedy at the hands of one intensely disturbed gunman. Then on page A14, readers learn that a new video game for children has been engineered “to scare the living daylights out of players” (A Toy Sensation And A Parent’s Nightmare: The Horror Hit That Might Haunt Your Child, July 24).

Children who cannot distinguish reality from online play have a much better chance of becoming adults who are twisted, both mentally and emotionally.

Is the pursuit of money for a few really more important than a healthy, safe society for all? Why is the video game industry not being censured?

Jo Meingarten, Toronto

Let’s Copenhagenize

“Copenhagenize” – what a great term. André Picard certainly has hit a positive note with this article on making Toronto an even greater city by expanding the use of bicycles, instead of the automobile (Toronto Can Transform Into A Bike-Friendly Metropolis. Yes, Really, July 24).

Political will is necessary, as well as good planning. Both the carrot and the stick will be required to make Toronto like Copenhagen. One of the ways to start the transition would be to reduce the number of parking spots available. In Copenhagen, they remove 30 parking spots a year from the central business district.

But a single effort like this is worthless unless accompanied by any overall plan involving bicycles and improved public transit to create a better environment in the central part of the city.

Robert Morrow, Dundas, Ont.


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