Does your son have a gun?

If we got these questions on the minds of the mothers and fathers, family members and friends who are quietly aware of who has a gun, perhaps they would speak up and help to silence the indiscriminate violence in our communities.

Bill Trudell

I recently had dinner with a dear and creative friend. Ironically, it was at a wonderful Toronto restaurant called Sidebar, located on Danforth Avenue, the scene of a tragic random shooting on the eve of writing this article.

As we dined, it did not take long to move from our standard Trump appetizers to what became the main meal — the recent proliferation of gun violence in our country, especially in Toronto.

I proffered an idea, a campaign slogan if you will, initially directed at parents: “Does your son have a gun?” My friend quickly added, “And will he be the next one?” The question remained open — the next one to die or the next one to cause a death?

If we got these questions on the minds of the mothers and fathers, family members and friends who are quietly aware of who has a gun, perhaps they would speak up and help to silence the indiscriminate violence in our communities.

More police officers on the streets, enhanced sophisticated security measures, more social assistance, more mentoring and, indeed, harsher treatment of offenders in the criminal justice system are all recycled ideas that have not worked. 

We are experiencing a growing “gun culture” that must be addressed, confronted and changed in the homes, schools, entertainment venues, hospitals and communities that are currently turning a blind eye to it.

If we know, even suspect that someone has a firearm and we ignore it, when that gun is subsequently used, I think it is fair to suggest that we are in large part complicit, perhaps even responsible.

Doing nothing, saying nothing and then shaking our heads after a tragedy does nothing but preserve the status quo and promote the growing culture of gun violence in our midst.

Not wanting to report someone to the police for fear of their prosecution and imprisonment or even fear of retribution or isolation in the community may be a natural instinct. It becomes morally unacceptable when a child’s life is randomly lost because of a deranged shooter or gang warfare.

Gangs don’t shoot people, people shoot people.

Gangs are social supplements for a lack of power, influence and hope and they feed immediate gratification, group status and almost certain revenge. 

We know this. Unfortunately, some music streams also feed this violent culture and the “gangsta” life-style for the aspiring disenfranchised in a world of stereotypes, racism, mistrust, misogyny and drug-turf wars. Moreover, the mentally ill should never be able to access firearms.

Its time to try something new. DOES YOUR SON HAVE A GUN OR WILL HE BE THE NEXT ONE?” should become a new familiar lyric.

Civic leaders, elected representatives, the police, doctors, lawyers, private citizens, media and iconic entertainers and athletes should join hands to get guns off the street.

Let’s take a chance and pick a day where, at various locations — for instance, at fire stations — firearms can be deposited anonymously, with no ramifications, no video, no questions and no followup.

It is easy to highlight the potential problems.

We shouldn’t promote the transportation of firearms for destruction. “It is too dangerous,” some will say.

Firearms, however, are being transported now for a more sinister form of destruction.

Urging the surrender and destruction of an unloaded gun is worth the risk.

Some will argue that no collection location can be safe.

But, now, citizens are afraid there are simply no safe locations in any event. Fire stations are sprinkled throughout our communities and are seen as places of safety with trained first responders.

Many will argue that gun owners and their agents will not trust police and may suspect that they are being trapped into an investigation.

The key to the success of this project depends on the undertaking and co-operation of the police. The police must not monitor those surrendering guns, nor seize the guns for forensic testing.

Some will protest that this is a pass for criminals who have stolen firearms already used in violent crimes.

The answer is difficult, yet simple.

Do we want that gun off the street or out there to be used again?

Some will argue that they do not trust the authorities. At each location, a defence counsel or member of the bar could be present to underwrite the undertaking by the police.

Many will suggest that gangs will use the opportunity to secure more weapons for themselves.

Police officers could be present at each location to prevent this sabotage from happening.

The media will be asked to promote the event but not cover the locations.

Civic leaders will be asked to urge their constituents to get behind the project to ultimately protect their loved ones.

Iconic athletes, entertainers and media personalities will be asked to join hands and use their platforms to make it work.

There will be many skeptics and certainly wrinkles to iron out. There could be an accident.

Nevertheless, if one gun — and I suspect there will be many more than one — gets dropped off and destroyed, the effort will be worth it.

Can you imagine asking the question, “Does your son have a gun?” and hearing “not anymore.”?

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