An Open Letter to the Gunman

toronto eaton centre shooting crime scene

Dear Mr. Shooter:

So. It appears, from the status of the person you succeeded in killing, that your decision, i.e. to open fire in the crowd at the food court in the Toronto Eaton Centre yesterday, was gang-related.

We, the public, still don’t know who you are or where you’re from. We don’t know what your history is. What we can assume is that you’re angry. You’d have to be, to pull a stunt like that.

As a teacher, I automatically wonder what kind of a child you were, and what your teachers thought of you in school. I wonder if you were ADHD or ODD. If you were a bully, or if you got bullied. If you were part of a visible minority that felt it had to stick together to survive, or if you had a bone to pick with visible minorities – or both. I wonder if you were neglected or beaten as a child, if you had enough to eat, if you had a parent in jail, or if you witnessed murder.

Maybe you did not go to school here. Perhaps you came from a place where some sacred document or cultural leader condoned the killing of people who don’t see eye-to-eye with you. Perhaps you came from a place where an obsession with the right to bear arms trumps public safety at every turn. Perhaps violence is all you know.

I have been shown countless times that when children have anger issues, there are reasons. Usually, they are reasons that make their teachers sad and sick at heart. We learn to have sympathy even – or especially – for the children we wish we could forcibly eject from the classroom.

I’m writing to tell you three things.

1) I’m sure you have your reasons. I’m sure you feel wronged and desperate and full of hatred, and you did not make it to that state alone. I’m sure you felt you were doing something you had to do. I understand that. I do not envy you.

2) THAT IS NO EXCUSE. Wherever you came from, whatever you did or had done to you, taking a gun to a public place and shooting in a crowd is NOT OKAY. Guns are NOT COOL. Killing is NOT ACCEPTABLE. If anyone has told you differently, they are WRONG. Do you understand me? Am I making myself clear? I know I speak for millions of Torontonians, and Canadians, when I say SHAPE UP. We don’t want your gang theatrics. You’re being immature and cowardly. And I hope you feel shitty about all those victims, including that 13-year-old boy in critical condition, and the pregnant woman who went into labour after being trampled in the terrified chaos. Great work.

3) I hope that when you go to jail, you are offered, and accept, the most help we can muster for you. I know that many people are hoping you rot in there, but my guess is that that would feel like the “same old, same old” to you. What I hope is that there will be someone who extends you compassion that shocks your soul. You’ve obviously forgotten, or perhaps never learned, the privileges of being a human being. Having enemies, being hunted, becoming a predator – that’s animal stuff. It’s not what we’re here for. Humanity is about deep communication, constructive debate, research and discovery, art, creativity, love.

It would be a shame for you to live a whole life as a human without knowing that.




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