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EDITORIAL: Gun violence inches closer

Fredericton police officers, Const. Robb Costello and Const. Sarah Burns, were gunned down after responding to a report of shots being fired

Canadians woke up Friday to the shocking news of multiple deaths in a shooting in the capital of New Brunswick. Fredericton police had blocked off an area of the city and were asking people to stay inside.

It was a chilling reminder of the 2014 Moncton shootings during which three RCMP officers were killed. Tragically, two Fredericton police officers were among four victims on Friday.

The officers, Const. Robb Costello and Const. Sarah Burns, were gunned down after responding to a report of shots being fired. They leave behind spouses and a total of seven children. The other two victims, a man and a woman, had not been identified as of late Friday afternoon.

Witnesses reported hearing many gunshots between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. near an apartment complex.

Police closed off a large section of the city and warned citizens not to report the locations of police officers on social media. They arrested a suspect, who was then taken to hospital. By 11 a.m., police said the threat to the public was over and reduced the lockdown area.

Police have learned some lessons about these incidents through sad experience and appear to have handled public safety and security calmly and professionally, despite the devastating reality that two of their own had died.

The shooting comes just three weeks after a gunman walked down a street in downtown Toronto, firing into businesses as he went, killing two and wounding 13 more.

More disturbing for Atlantic Canadians, it’s another reminder that the violence that we think is a feature of larger cities, mostly in other countries, can actually hit home.

The Moncton shootings were not that long ago.

More recent was the Desmond family tragedy, in which a former soldier shot three members of his family to death in January 2017 before taking his own life at their home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.

We like to think this kind of thing doesn’t happen here, that we live in a quiet, peaceful corner of the world where people take care of each other.

That’s no longer true, if it ever was. Clearly, whatever evil leads to these crimes is present in all human societies, including ours.

The July 23 shooting in Toronto prompted some soul-searching that will no doubt be reinforced by Friday’s tragedy in Fredericton.

Toronto city council has asked the federal government to ban handgun sales in the city and has asked Ontario to outlaw the sale of handgun ammunition.

Ottawa is examining the issue in depth and Bill Blair - the federal minister of border security and organized crime reduction, and the ex-police chief of Toronto - says it is considering giving municipalities some powers to crack down on handguns. Blair says Ottawa is looking at ways to keep more guns out of the hands of criminals.

All of these ideas are welcome contributions to the debate. Canada’s gun laws are already strict, but any measure that could make a tragedy like Friday’s less possible should be considered.

Unfortunately, we also have to face the fact that gun violence can touch all of us, in one way or another. If you know someone in Fredericton, give them a call. I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

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