Gun victim's friends push for handgun ban
Friends of an innocent Toronto father gunned down while walking home two weeks ago are demanding the federal government ban handguns and stop the flow of illegal weapons coming into Canada.
A group of John O'Keefe's friends made the plea outside the Old City Hall courthouse where the victim's accused killers were appearing on Friday.
"We need to wake up here in Canada. He was shot in the heart of our city, in the heart of our country. It is unacceptable, it is ridiculous," Jennifer Allen told CTV Toronto.
"There is only one purpose for handguns, and that is to kill people ... and we need to ban handguns, not only in the city of Toronto, but in the entire country."
Allen said the federal government should also impose stiff mandatory minimum sentences for those who use guns in the commission of a crime.
"It needs to happen now. Action needs to taken, and we're not going to let this die," she said.
Another friend said any act of violence is troubling.
"I'm always surprised when someone is taken through an act of violence, whether it's (today), whether it was three years ago, 10 years ago, whether I knew them or not," said Marianna Ramacciotti. "It's something that we tend to be jaded about."
The group said they support Mayor David Miller's call for a handgun ban and federal NDP Leader Jack Layton's plan to reduce gun crimes.
Last weekend, Layton said called for on the federal government to, among other things, hire more police officers, improve witness protection problems and hold a cross-border summit to find ways to stop the flow of illegal handguns being smuggled into Canada.
O'Keefe, a 42-year-old father of a young boy, was shot in the head while walking down Yonge Street on Jan. 12. Police say two patrons who were ejected from the Brass Rail strip club that night had returned with a handgun.
A bullet fired outside the club, which investigators say was intended for a bouncer, struck O'Keefe in the head.
Toronto residents Edward Paredes, 22, and Awet Zekarias, 23, are each charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. They were to appear via video link to set a date for a bail hearing.
Their court appearances on Friday came on the day another innocent bystander killed by gunfire was laid to rest.
Hou Chang Mao, 47, was fatally shot while working outside an east-end grocery store six days after O'Keefe was killed.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Chris Eby