TORONTO — Inside a concert hall on the east Toronto street where Reese Fallon was shot to death with a handgun last summer, Noor Samiei stood before a microphone on Friday and took a moment to recall the qualities she appreciated most in her best friend.Fallon, 18, was bright and funny and never allowed the people she cared about to suffer through a dull moment, Samiei said. More than anything she wanted to transmit love into the world.She planned to study nursing at university. She was eating ice cream in the moments before she died.“What happened to us was a tragedy,” said Samiei, who was with Fallon and friends of theirs who were struck and wounded last July 22 in the mass shooting on Danforth Avenue.Exactly seven months after Faisal Hussain killed Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and injured 13 other bystanders in the course of his rampage down the busy Toronto street on a summer Sunday evening, Samiei and family members of some of the victims issued a public plea for handguns and assault rifles to be banned across the country.Speaking at a news conference at the Danforth Music Hall, Samiei read an open letter to Justin Trudeau that urges the prime minister and his government to emulate “like-minded” countries such as Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom in moving to restrict individual possession of these weapons.“We think we could have had better odds had attitudes toward handgun ownership been different before that night,” Samiei said as she read the letter aloud.“In our case, a handgun that was imported through legal channels made its way into the hands of the perpetrator of our trauma and loss,” she added later. “Why did this need to happen?”
A man attends a vigil on July 23, 2018, for the victims of the mass shooting on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue the night before.
Samiei and her group’s call for a ban comes as Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief and the federal minister of organized crime reduction, prepares to apprise cabinet of his efforts to canvass opinions on the subject from all over Canada.For a month this past fall the federal government ran an online questionnaire to ask Canadians if they supported a handgun ban. Blair has also participated in round-table discussions about gun policy in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and elsewhere.Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux, a spokeswoman for the minister, said Blair is wrapping up his consultations and expects to release a report of his findings sometime early this year. She declined to be more specific about timing.“Seven months ago today, Toronto, and all of Canada, was forever impacted by heinous and senseless violence, and the Danforth shooting remains a devastating reminder of what can happen when hatred prevails in our communities,” Blair said in a statement.“The tragedy that transpired on July 22, 2018, served to strengthen our resolve to ensure that events such as these never occur again. Protecting the safety and security of Canadians remains our government’s top priority and we are deeply concerned with the recent acts of gun violence across the country. We are committed to reducing gun and gang violence and keeping our communities safe.”The day after the Danforth shooting, Toronto city councillors voted 40-5 to ask the federal government to prohibit the sale and possession of handguns and assault rifles countrywide. Mayor John Tory has been a vocal proponent of such a ban, which Montreal’s city council advocated for by way of a unanimous vote last August.Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, the Liberal MP for Toronto’s Beaches-East York riding, spoke in support of a ban at Friday’s news conference, arguing there is “no reason” for a restricted firearm to be stored at someone’s home if it is only meant to be used at a shooting range.Ken Price, whose daughter Samantha was injured in the Danforth shooting, made a point of noting that he and others who helped devise the open letter to Trudeau aren’t calling for a sweeping ban on all firearm ownership. Instead, he said, their campaign is predicated on the belief that access to handguns poses too high a risk to public safety.“These weapons are designed to kill people,” said retired Toronto police officer Patrick McLeod, whose daughter was with Fallon, Samiei and Samantha Price during the shooting.“They’re taken from people who like to shoot a paper target, and they’re shooting at real people now. We want to take that right out of the ballpark.”Until last July 22, Noor Samiei expected her life to conform to a certain vision, thinking, at the very least, that no tragedy of this magnitude would ever befall her or her friends. She and Fallon used to talk about what each of their children might do in the future, she said.It’s still difficult to comprehend that she’s gone.“This is one thing that’s really getting us through,” Samiei said, referring to the idea of a ban. “It’s hope that something like this will never happen to another family.”• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @nickmfaris