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Mother of children shot in playground calls for new approach to gun violence

Last Updated Jul 16, 2018 at 6:38 pm EDT

Her two young girls were shot and injured while doing what every kid loves to do — playing in their local playground. Now, Stacey King is among those calling for a new approach to tackling Toronto’s growing gun violence problem.

“I’m the voice for my children. Me being behind the scene is not the proper voice for my children,” said King.

King was among several speakers at a Toronto Board of Health meeting on Monday, encouraging the board to approach gun violence as a public health issue.

Community activists say the recent rash of shootings in Toronto is a result in part of the growing gap between the rich and poor. King believes that simply adding more police officers to our streets won’t solve the root problem.

“They need to decrease the poverty rate. They need to work and get jobs more for youth. They need to open more opportunities for youth.

They need to start going into the schools and speaking to young children,” added King.

The Board of Health is listening to King and other parents. Ongoing research being conducted by the city examines the extent to which people who live in the city are exposed to community violence and how it affects their mental and physical health.

City staff say the project, expected to be completed in 2019, will also seek out “effective evidence-informed interventions” to mitigate community violence and its health effects.

Kelly Whetter lost her 18-year-old son Gabriel to gun violence two years ago. She says more has to be done before more neighbourhoods are faced with unspeakable tragedy.

“A bullet doesn’t discriminate. It really injures an entire community,” said Whetter. “These young people shouldn’t have to have to bury their friends or their brothers.”

“Every time there’s an incident of shooting, it affects not only the immediate family or the immediate friends, it affects the entire community,” added Spadina-York MPP, Chris Glover.

King says her five- and nine-year-old daughters, who underwent surgery for their gunshot wounds, are still traumatized by the experience. She’s now calling for a unified approach to the recent rash of shootings.

“It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to stop gun violence. We all need to come together and stop talking and take action.”