Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Chill Wind from the North

It seems that after enduring years of abuse, the government of Canada has decided to pull a SouthPark-esque move of its own and "blame it on the US" -- in this case, Toronto's record year for gun deaths.

On the one hand, they have a point. As the Toronto Star points out, Toronto's 52 deaths this year pale in comparison to the thousand-plus shootings reported in New York City this year. Like it or not, we Americans are inured to violence, and it shouldn't be surprising that our culture and gangs have leaked across the border, along with several of our relatively-uncontrolled guns. The downside of the Second Amendment is that any idiot is allowed to own a gun until proven otherwise, and unfortunately....many do.

However, what to me is the sheer brazen nature of these crimes. Yonge Street and Dundas Square are not back alleys or side cul-de-sacs -- they are major public areas, similar to Fifth Avenue and Times Square in New York City. For whatever reason, people shoot each other left and right elsewhere in NYC, but not in these major spots. Yet in Toronto, they're pulling out guns and firing away, in spots where there's a virtual certainty they will be a) seen and b) hitting innocent bystanders.

This is why I'm skeptical of the claims of those like Toronto Mayor David Miller, just as I was of those made by French Prime Minister Villepin in the wake of the mass riots in France, that more money, welfare, etc. are going to solve the problem. It reminds me of a favorite Bloom County strip in which a well-dressed government pollster asks an "underclass youth" why they prefer selling an illegal substance and making thousands of dollars when they could be working honestly for five bucks an hour at McDonalds.

Certainly, providing more opportunities for disadvantaged minorities and youth is not going to hurt the problem any. However, the behavior of these gangs to me is not one of hopeless youth, but of arrogant criminals. These people aren't out to commit the equivalent of suicide because their situations are that terrible; they're out committing crimes because they know the reward far outweighs the risk. This signals an enforcement problem in my mind; while Canadians may welcome Prime Minister Martin's plan to ban handguns, as they will soon find out from the example of San Francisco, Chicago, and other cities where handgun bans have been tried....someone who is willing to shoot another person is probably not overly concerned with whether or not the weapon they use is legal.

I am heartened by a spot-on quote from one of the parties involved in Toronto, though:

Kofi Hope of the Black Youth Coalition Against Violence said while governments must play a role, young people also need to combat the "cynicism, alienation and apathy" that lead to low self-esteem and bad choices.

"At the most basic level, it's got to be a change of attitude among young people," Hope said.

Truer words were never spoken.

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