In July 2018, a man went on a shooting spree with a semi-automatic gun along Danforth Avenue in Toronto, Ontario. The attack left two dead and 13 injured. Dr. Najma Ahmed, a trauma doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital, was on call the night of the shooting.
“In the medical community, there’s very little debate gun violence has become a public health crisis,” she tells Parentology. “The Danforth shooting showed us that this isn’t merely about criminals killing other criminals. It can happen anywhere, to anyone.”
Since the Danforth shooting, Ahmed co-created the Canadian Doctors for Protection From Guns (CDPG), a grassroots organization comprised of physicians, nurses, first responders and a multitude of members from the medical community. The CDPG aims to ban the sale of guns and assault weapons and calls for enforceable public policy response to this community crisis.
To date, CDPG has managed to get Bill C-71 passed by the Senate. “Bill C-71 [is] an important piece of legislation in support of public safety and the ability of law enforcement to investigate gun crimes, while at the same time being reasonable and respectful toward law-abiding firearms owners and businesses,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who introduced the bill, was quoted as saying.
The legislation behind Bill C-71 seeks to reform acts and regulations regarding firearm control, including:
- Enhanced background checks
- Mandatory record-keeping (by private citizens and business owners)
- Authorization to Transport (ATT)
- Classification of firearms
Ideally, the notion of public health and safety should be a bipartisan issue, yet this uphill battle has seen the politicizing of gun control to support platforms that have a vested interest in the sale of firearms. According to OpenSecrets, the National Rifle Association (NRA) spent $28,212,718 on political contributions in 2013 and 2014 to advertise their agenda.
The backlash from the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights (CCFR) — whose agenda is heavily informed by the NRA — has been swift and fierce.
Gun rights advocates in Canada and the US decry any perceived infringement on gun ownership, claiming criminals won’t apply for a license or an Authorization to Transport (ATT).
Wendy Cukier, author of The Global Gun Epidemic and president of the Coalition for Gun Control (CGC), says gun violence is a preventable public health issue.
“It’s backed by the World Health Organization (WHO),” Cukier tells Parentology. “Gun control is statistically related to a decline in gun-related deaths. Stronger controls over legally-purchased guns reduce the likelihood they’ll fall into the wrong hands.”
The data is overwhelming: Since 1982, the US has had 114 mass shootings. Of those, 85 (or 74%) involved firearms that were legally obtained. Women in the US are 21 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women from other high-income countries. Two-thirds of gun deaths are self-inflicted.
Perhaps Ahmed puts it best when looking at guns as a public health crisis.“When people died in massive numbers due to car collisions, we instituted seat belt laws. We get vaccinations to prevent measles and polio. Stricter gun laws follow the same preventative measures for public health and safety.”