WITH shootings continuing unabated throughout the Lower Mainland, it reminds us of how the provincial government didn’t take our warning about the proliferation of illegal guns in the Lower Mainland seriously when we wrote about it back in 2001.

Yes, that was almost 20 years ago!

In a lead article in The VOICE – “GUNS! GUNS! GUNS! LOWER MAINLAND POLICE FORCES NEED TO TAKE MASSIVE ACTION” – that appeared in this newspaper on August 11, 2001, I wrote:

WANNA settle scores?

No problem.

Just get a gun and ‘bang!’

No, I am not trying to be humorous or sensational.

But that’s exactly what’s happening in the Lower Mainland and also back east in Toronto.

And, unfortunately, it’s happening in a big way in our own Indo-Canadian community as events in the past few weeks as well as those in the past few years have so graphically demonstrated.

It’s not that homicides have increased as such – it’s the fact that guns have increasingly become the weapon of choice in killings as well in the commission of other crimes in the past few years.

Yet it appears that the Lower Mainland police forces – the RCMP and the municipal police forces – have not sat down together to discuss this menace of guns and work out some kind of a strategy before things spiral out of control.

Delta Police Sgt. Fred Leisz told The VOICE: “There’s enough weapons around that if a person wants it bad enough, that if he makes the right phone calls and makes the right contacts, he’s going to be able to get a gun.”

And Surrey RCMP Corp. Janice Armstrong told The VOICE: “I think it’s more difficult to get guns here (than in the U.S.), but they are still available. I mean if somebody in the criminal element wants to get a gun, I am sure that they will get a hold of a gun somewhere and I don’t think they have to go the United States in order to do that.”

Even in Burnaby, where there has been only one murder so far this year, RCMP Constable Phil Reed told The VOICE that the number of guns they are coming across in the commission of different crimes “is disturbing, because we realize that somewhere down the road someone’s going to get killed as a result of it.”

In Vancouver city (population: 565,905) itself, gun-related homicides shot up from 39 per cent in 1998 to 62 per cent so far this year, according to statistics provided this Wednesday to The VOICE by Vancouver police Detective Scott Driemel.

And back east in Toronto, police Chief Julian Fantino told the Toronto Star that it seemed the way people dealt with conflict nowadays was with violence and, invariably, the weapon of choice appeared to be the gun.

In Toronto city (population: more than 2 million), homicides in which gunshot wounds were the cause of death have jumped from 23 per cent in 1998 to 60 per cent so far this year.

Here in the Lower Mainland, police spokespersons told The VOICE this week that it seemed the days of settling scores with fists were over and that guns were being increasingly used in homicides.

(Interviews with Delta Police’s Sgt. Leisz, Vancouver police’s Detective Scott Driemel, Surrey RCMP’s Cpl. Janice Armstrong, Burnaby RCMP’s Constable Phil Reed followed.)