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article imageOp-Ed: Gun owner should be charged in death of 14-year-old Toronto girl

By Marcus Hondro     Jul 13, 2015 in Crime
The preventable death of a 14-year-old Toronto girl last week highlights the illegal possession of guns in Canada. She was killed by an unregistered, illegal handgun and while it may have been accidental, the owner of the gun should be prosecuted.
Police investigate girl's shooting
Lecent Ross was, by all accounts, a wonderful, lively and beautiful young girl, a straight "A" student who already had aspirations of becoming a lawyer. She was shot and killed Thursday morning by the illegal gun while visiting a friend on Jamestown Crescent in the Rexdale area near Finch Ave.
She leaves behind a grieving and devastated mother and family and grieving friends and teachers; all of them speak of her character and her great value to her community. That value, that girl, now lost to us forever.
Police are still investigating and are treating it as a "suspicious" death; there are reports it may have been a death by misadventure, which suggests it was an accident. Police have not said who was holding the gun when Ross was shot but have said that those in the home are cooperating.
But was this an accident? Even if this shooting is found to be unintentional, in my view, if that gun was put on the premises despite the fact it was not registered and not a legally owned gun, then it cannot be called accidental. In such a case, such a death should more accurately be described as manslaughter.
Police: illegal handgun
Det. Rich Petrie of the Toronto police told a news conference the gun that killed the teenager was an "illegal, prohibited, semi-automatic handgun." He also said the investigation seeks to find who was responsible for the .40 calibre Smith and Wesson being in that home.
"People knew about this gun, it didn't just show up. It came from somewhere," Det. Petrie said. "Somebody knew about it, somebody could have called Crime Stoppers. Somebody was aware of that gun and they chose to turn a blind eye, and this is where we are."
She was hit in the upper body, one report said in the face. Was she holding the gun? Members of her family have said Lecent would not have even touched a gun. Was someone else handling it and somehow, unintentionally, pressed the trigger? Was there an adult present when it went off?
Police are seeking to answer these questions, and others, and when they have those answers we will get more information. But as an uncle of Lecent Ross said, parents in Canada should not have to worry about their kids being shot dead while visiting friends. Troy Ross rightly said that all our neighborhoods should be free of illegal guns.
Prosecuting gun owners
One thing that must be done, clearly, is to shore up our borders with the U.S. That is how most illegal guns in Canada find their way here. As the Toronto Star noted in an excellent series on the gun trade, most guns get by border agents.
Border security is working toward increasing the number of guns they are able to intercept and must be given all necessary resources to increase their likelihood of intercepting illegal guns. They can't do the job without adequate staffing and the necessary investigative tools.
Further, police and community organizations must continue to work with youth in communities most affected by violence. While Lecent Ross was not a youth at-risk, the area she lived in is known for shootings and the funding must be there to help kids who partake in crime to gain productive lives.
Finally, to reduce guns in our cities we must enforce existing laws. Having an illegal gun comes with a minimum sentence of three years in Canada, and even were it Ross who accidentally caused that gun to go off, the gun's owner should be charged. So, too, should any adult who knew it was there and did nothing about it.
Sadly, the only thing we can do is make certain this does not happen again, not in Lecent Ross' community or any community in Canada. We can never get back the wonderful young person that we had, but we can take steps to make sure that such a tragedy does not happen again.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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