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The Summer of the Gun

Alexander the Great Parkette, Greektown, Toronto. Site of the 2018 shooting which saw two killed and thirteen wounded.

Many decades ago (more than I care to count), I and my parents were watching evening television in our eastend Toronto home when a knock came at the front door. My parents were not expecting anyone, so it was a curious event.

I answered the door and was met by two police officers in full uniform. Extraordinary. They asked if “Dick Watada” lived at this address. I said yes of course. They then asked to see him.

I wonder to this day if my parents were reminded of 1942 when the RCMP came to their Vancouver apartment looking for my father to take him away to a road camp where he was forced to dig the foundations for a highway to be built. His wife and son were not told where he was for months. This was the common experience of the Issei men and some older Nisei men after Pearl Harbor.

In any case, my father went upstairs to call my brother. Hideki came down confident in knowing he had done nothing wrong. I’m sure my parents felt the same in 1942. My brother was a tall educated man, having graduated with an MA from the University of Toronto as a Chemical Engineer. He was about to start his first career job at Gulf Oil and work on his PhD.

The police wanted to talk to him about his freshly acquired gun license. They advised him to store any purchased firearm unloaded in a safe place, preferably in a safe. They advised gun handling lessons. They even stated some gun safety rules. They asked him what he intended to buy (a handgun) for and quizzed him about the use of it. They already had his ID obviously so there was no need to query him about that. I’m sure they had done an extensive background check. Satisfied with his answers they left laughing and joking with him.

Can you imagine if that were to happen today? Here or in the United States? I’m sure there would be a loud outcry from the public. “You see what Socialism does to you!” I’m sure would be the complaint. The Toronto police today do not have the manpower to interview every gun licence owner, but this incident points to a stark difference between Canadian and American approaches to gun control.

In Canada, the laws are quite specific and rigorous.

  • All gun owners must be licensed, and all handguns and most semiautomatic weapons must be registered.
  • Handguns can't be carried out of the home, either concealed or openly, except with a specific license, which is usually only given to people who need guns for work. Exceptions are made for hobbyists who carry the weapon to a registered firing range.
  • Licenses require training in gun safety and an extensive background check.
  • Guns must be kept locked and unloaded.

Guns are classified into three categories:

  • Non-restricted: regular shotguns and rifles, and some military-style rifles and shotguns.
  • Restricted: non-prohibited handguns, some semi-automatic rifles, and certain non-semi rifles as well.
  • Prohibited: most handguns that either have a short (less than 105 millimetres) barrel or are 32 or 25 calibers, fully automatic weapons, guns with sawed-off barrels, and certain military rifles like the AK-47.

If that weren’t enough, new gun laws have been passed recently by the Federal government. Bill C-71 (passed and adopted as law last spring) extended the required background check; now the police are required to check the owner’s record daily through the national records systems. Furthermore, gun retailers and seller must keep full records of long guns. And there are many other provisions.

Gun retailers voluntarily pin ammunition magazines for semi-automatic rifles, effectively limiting the number of bullets that can be shot at a time.

This is not to say Canada is totally safe from violent shootings, mass or otherwise. All levels of government refuse to ban handguns altogether, even though there was a massive hew and cry about it in light of the recent US mass killings.

There have been over 250 shootings in the city so far this year. Many were fatal. In what the public dubbed the Summer of the Gun (2005), just over 100 fatalities took place. My American friends laughed at that statistic since major cities in the US average over 1000 gun-related deaths per year. But for “Toronto the Good”, 100 killings were shocking.

The problem doesn’t lie in the gun control laws but in the illegal guns smuggled into the country from the US and other countries just about every day. Still, without the controls, I suspect the city and country would not be ranked 4th safest in the world and the safest in North America. You see, there is something to be said for Socialism.


*Discover Nikkei is an archive of stories representing different communities, voices, and perspectives. This article presents the opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Discover Nikkei and the Japanese American National Museum. Discover Nikkei publishes these stories as a way to share different perspectives expressed within the community..


© 2019 Terry Watada

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