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Families of those shot in Toronto attack seek ban on handguns, assault rifles


TORONTO — Seven months after a gunman went on a shooting rampage in Toronto's Greektown, survivors and victims' loved ones called on Ottawa to ban private ownership of handguns and assault rifles across the country.

The group that gathered Friday at a concert venue just blocks away from where last summer's violence took place read an open letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging him to change gun laws to help prevent similar attacks in the future. 

"What happened to us was a tragedy, and we think we could have had better odds had attitudes towards handgun ownership been different before that night," said Noor Samiei, who was celebrating her 18th birthday with friends on the city's bustling Danforth Avenue when the attack took place.

"What we are asking for is part of a solution to a complex problem, but that does not excuse us from acting."

Samiei's friend, 18-year-old Reese Fallon, and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis were killed in the shooting. Thirteen others were wounded.

"We miss Reese and we miss Julianna. We have to live with that," Samiei said. "But we don't have to live with the laws that could be changed to help prevent this from happening again."

Fallon's 15-year-old sister, who was among those who signed the letter to Trudeau, said her life was forever changed on the night of the shooting.

"No family should ever have to go through what my family and the Kozises do: finding out your 18-year-old sister is lying dead on the Danforth while she was innocently minding her own business out for her best friend's birthday dinner, or rushing your 10-year-old child to Sick Kids with bullet wounds and finding out she's not going to make it," Quinn Fallon said.

The shooter, 29-year-old Faisal Hussain, was found dead nearby shortly after the rampage with what authorities said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His parents issued a statement a day after the shooting outlining their son's battle with depression and psychosis and denouncing his "horrific" actions.

The letter sent to Trudeau on Friday calls on the federal government to take concrete action on gun control.

"Having taken some seven months to grieve and consider what we should do to make a difference, 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," it reads.

"We acknowledge that this action is not the only step that needs to be taken to stem gun violence; however, we believe it will be impactful and effective as the results in other countries have shown."

The father of a young woman injured in the Greektown Shooting urged politicians to heed the group's call.

"We want our politicians, our elected officials at all levels of government to support what we're asking for today," said Ken Price. "We're reaching out to other Canadians to borrow our grief, if that's the right word to say. This could be you, we don't want this to be you."

A gun control law, Bill C-71, is making its way through the Senate.

It includes changes to the Firearms Act and Criminal Code. Among its amendments are considering events more than five years in the past when judging applicants' eligibility for gun licences and requiring a buyer's licence be verified in the sale of non-restricted firearms.

It does not include an outright ban on private ownership, and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair is expected to make further recommendations on gun control in the coming weeks after holding consultations across the country.

"We are committed to reducing gun and gang violence and keeping our communities safe," Blair said Friday in a written statement. "To that effect, we are currently leading a collaborative and comprehensive review of rising gun violence across Canada and are considering all options, including a ban on handguns and assault-style rifles, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians."

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

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