Relatives of those killed or injured in the shooting rampage in Toronto’s Greektown last summer are calling for a ban on the private ownership of handguns and assault rifles.
Ken Price, father of one of the injured victims, told the media on Friday that a group of families have sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The letter requests that the government addresses what they say is a lack of action to curb gun violence.
“Are we going to learn from our experience or are we going to express grief in the moment and move on? We are better than this as a nation," the open letter reads. "We are urging that Canada follow the lead of other like-minded countries such as the UK, Japan and Australia and impose a ban on the private ownership of handguns and military style assault rifles."
The gathering on Friday marked not only the seven month anniversary of the shooting but also the first time victims and their families rallied together publicly.
On July 22, gunman Faisal Hussain opened fire into crowded restaurants and patios killing 18-year-old Reese Fallon, and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis. Thirteen other people were injured. Investigators say the gunman later killed himself.
Price’s daughter Samantha was on Danforth Avenue eating ice cream with Fallon and a group of friends on the night of the shooting. A bullet pierced Price’s thigh.
Fallon's younger sister, Quinn Fallon, also spoke during the press conference at Danforth Music Hall and said her family now feels "incomplete."
"Reese always talked about her future — her future at McMaster [University], becoming a nurse and how many kids she wanted and where she wanted to raise a family," she said, adding the pain her family feels is “indescribable.”
"Because of this tragedy, Reese and Julianna will never get to experience a day past that July 22. They both wanted love and peace, not hate or violence," she said. Noor Samiei, a friend of Fallon, told CTV Toronto she could never accept Fallon’s death. “It’ll always affect me.”
"We miss Reese and we miss Julianna. We have to live with that," Samiei said at the press conference. "But we don't have to live with the laws that could be changed to help prevent this from happening again."
Price said “the shootings took the lives of two girls we miss very much,” Price said. “We’re grieving still, every family here still feels affected … however there are some of us who do want to stand up today and say we do need to change.”
He said Canadians have gone through an “unprecedented year” in gun violence, particularly in Toronto. He stressed this wasn’t a “referendum on firearms in general, but on specifically handguns and assault rifles.”
Price said the group was “unanimous” in asking elected officials at all levels of government to advocate for these changes. Several of the family members wore shirts which read “protect kids, not guns.”
'We don’t want this to be you'
“We want to see this country move in this direction. We think it will benefit the country and we think it will prioritize public safety,” Price said. “We don’t want this to be you in the future and we can improve our odds of that not being the case if you’re supportive now.”
On Friday, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said their investigation into the shooting had finished but he didn’t say when more information would be released.
Toronto’s city council has already called for a ban on handguns and assault rifles. Mayor John Tory previously sent a letter to the families of the Danforth shooting victims, and that he has also reached out to Trudeau.
The Liberal government is already exploring a potential handgun ban but affected families worry it won’t be enough.
"The families fear that the initiative will fall short of recommending a handgun and assault rifle ban, and they want to ensure they see action," the letter states.
Canada’s current firearms legislation doesn’t contain a definition of what constitutes as an assault rifle. But a recent federal government paper on new gun legislation took the definition from the United States Department of Justice, which states: “assault weapons are semi-automatic firearms with a large magazine of ammunition that were designed and configured for rapid fire.”
Although Canada has long prohibited possession of automatic guns, some semi-automatic firearms are not restricted and can be bought if purchasers obtain a basic possession and acquisition licence.
With files from CTV Toronto
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