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Gun laws, threat of death aren't deterring those behind rising city shooting numbers: police

Calgary Herald logo Calgary Herald 2022-05-26 Bill Kaufmann
Calgary police are shown at the scene of a shooting/accident at 17 Ave. and 36 St. SE in Calgary on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. © Provided by Calgary Herald Calgary police are shown at the scene of a shooting/accident at 17 Ave. and 36 St. SE in Calgary on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

City police are frustrated in their efforts to prevent a rising tide of shootings by criminals undeterred by the prospect of death, and laws that aren’t being properly employed.

So far this year Calgary has seen 62 shooting incidents, including 18 last month and eight in May — a 107 per cent increase over the same period last year, Deputy Chief Paul Cook told the Calgary police commission Wednesday.

He said while significant investments have been made in investigating those shootings after they occur, preventing and deterring them has proven a tougher challenge.

The likely results of such activity among perpetrators — death and imprisonment — are well-known to them, said Cook.

“I can tell you the vast majority of the people we deal with, those consequences don’t matter to them,” he said.

“(They think) they’re better to be caught with a gun by police than to be without a gun and come across one of their rivals.”

He said it’s up to the public, those who know those wielding firearms, to help police prevent further bloodshed.

“Stopping shootings and gun violence requires the entire community to come together,” said Cook.

“We need help from family and friends and loved ones to ensure those walking around illegally carrying guns aren’t traumatizing victims or becoming victims themselves.”

In response to the gunplay, police have better aligned intelligence and other resources, said the deputy chief.

Commission member Heather Campbell asked Cook if Calgary is ripe for the kind of mass shootings that have plagued Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, this month.

Her colleague Courtney Walcott cited an incident a week ago in which a student at Bowness High School was arrested after bringing a loaded semi-automatic handgun into the building.

The teen, who allegedly carried the weapon in a backpack with additional ammunition, has been charged with six firearms-related offences.


Video: Gun brought to Calgary school, student taken into police custody (Global News)

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“Are our policies that are in place . . . are our gun laws, in prevention and how we intervene — are we doing enough?” said Walcott, adding he’s seen data suggesting handguns on the street legally obtained are then stolen versus being trafficked.

Said Cook: “It’s evident with the violence we’re seeing across this country and the proliferation of crime guns, I think the obvious answer is no, we’re not doing enough.”

Handguns used criminally, he said, are “unlawfully possessed, they’re unlawfully stored and they’re unlawfully used.”

Sufficient laws are in place but they need to be fully enforced, said Cook.

“We need that full system of justice to come together to affect the required change to keep our communities safe,” he said.

“I think we have the laws on the books but we need the system (to act more strongly).”

 Paul Cook is shown at the Calgary police commission meeting in Calgary on Tuesday, January 28, 2020. Paul Cook is shown at the Calgary police commission meeting in Calgary on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.

Civic leaders in Toronto, which has been plagued by an escalating rash of gunplay in recent years, have floated the idea of banning handguns outright within their city.

That’s drawn criticism from some, who insist it would do nothing to deter the criminal use of those firearms and that those seized by police after being used in offences were illegally possessed.

All publicly owned handguns in Canada are tightly restricted and limited to use at firing ranges, and a licence is required to purchase or own a pistol or revolver.

So far this year, Calgary has recorded 12 homicides, with four of them targeted shootings.

“We’re almost double the average in 2022,” said Cook, adding eight of those homicides have resulted in charges.

“The four that remain uncleared all were shooting homicides and all were motivated by organized crime or drugs.”

One of those deaths, he noted, was that of mother of five Angela McKenzie, 40 , who was killed May 10 when her vehicle was struck by another whose driver was involved in a shooting in Forest Lawn, say police.

“This is what we always feared — an innocent person being caught in a conflict,” he said.

“Everybody should be able to safely go about their business without finding themselves being victimized.”

Police are still seeking Talal Amer, 29 , who is wanted for attempted murder, manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm, possession of a prohibited firearm with an obliterated serial number, unauthorized possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a prohibited firearm and possession of a prohibited device.

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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