14 Things You Should Know About VIOLENT CRIME and FIREARMS in CANADA
By Senator Don Plett
The debate over the regulation of firearms in Canada is often influenced more by emotion than by facts. Since good public policy should be based on solid evidence, following are a few facts for consideration:
1. Violent crime is decreasing in Canada.
The number of people charged in violent criminal code violations has decreased by about 25% over the last 20 years – from almost 700 per 100,000 persons to just over 500.
2. Canada’s homicide rate is trending downward.
As reported by Statistics Canada, “Despite year‑to‑year fluctuations of Canadian homicide statistics, the rate of homicide in Canada has generally been decreasing over the years.” Homicides in Canada peaked in 1975 and have been trending downward ever since. In fact, since 1975, the homicide rate in Canada has dropped by almost half.
3. The use of firearms in homicides is trending downward.
The use of firearms in homicides has been trending downward since 1974. There was a 20% increase between 2013 (the lowest rate of fatal shootings ever recorded) and 2016, which according to Statistics Canada, “…was driven by a substantive increase in gang-related homicides over that period.” In spite of this increase, the long term trend continues to point downwards.
4. Knives are used more often than guns in homicides.
Since 1974, the use of knives in homicides has been trending upwards, while the use of guns has been trending downwards. Between 2007 and 2016, more homicides were committed by stabbing than by firearms in 7 out of 10 of those years.
5. Guns are rarely used in the commission of violent crimes in Canada.
Statistics Canada says that a “small proportion of police-reported violent crime involves firearms”. To illustrate, in 2016, there were 265,555 reported instances of violent crime. Only about one fifth (21.5%) of these involved the use of a weapon. This weapon was a firearm in only 2.7% of police-reported violent crime incidents and a handgun only 1.6% of the time – the equivalent of 1 out of every 63 reported incidents of violent crime.
6. Increased gang activity has substantially contributed to the homicide rate in recent years.
Statistics Canada reports that the recent increase in homicides has been “driven by a substantive increase in gang-related homicides.” Between 1996 and 2016, gang-related homicides increased by almost 400 percent.
7. One in four homicide victims in 2016 had links to organized crime or a street gang.
Statistics Canada reports that, “In 2016, police reported 141 gang‑related homicides, an increase of 45 from the 96 reported in 2015. These represented almost one‑quarter of the homicides in 2016 where police knew whether or not the incident was gang‑related. Overall, gang‑related homicides accounted for 30% of homicides that occurred in Census Metropolitan Areas in 2016.”
8. Most gun crimes are not committed with legally-owned firearms
According to the federal government, “The vast majority of owners of handguns and of other firearms in Canada lawfully abide by requirements, and most gun crimes are not committed with legally-owned firearms.”
9. Handguns have been registered in Canada since 1934.
Not many people appear to be aware of this fact, but it’s true: Handguns are already restricted weapons and have been registered in Canada since 1934. In spite of this, handguns are more commonly used in homicides than long guns.
10. The number of people being charged for breaking the Firearms Act is minuscule.
In 2017, the rate of persons being charged for breaking the Firearms Act was .22 per 100,000 persons or 2.2 per million persons. This rate is the lowest it has been since 2001 and has been trending downwards for over 15 years.
11. Banning handguns or introducing more firearm regulations does not reduce gun violence.
This fact is noted on the website of Public Safety Canada, “In all cases the data does not conclusively demonstrate that these handgun or assault weapon bans have led to reductions in gun violence… ". According to gun control experts, "No methodologically sound studies exist supporting the effectiveness of general firearms laws."
12. There is no association between an increase in gun ownership and the homicide rate.
Despite concerns to the contrary, research shows that increased legal gun ownership does not result in an increase in homicide.
13. There is no correlation between levels of gun ownership and suicide rates.
In 1998, a Department of Justice study noted that: "In Canada, provincial comparisons of firearm ownership levels and overall rates of suicide found that levels of firearm ownership had no correlation with regional suicide rates. Furthermore, the Canadian rate of firearm suicides has dropped without evidence of a similar reduction in the rate of firearm ownership."
14. Background checks under the Firearms Act have had no impact on homicide or spousal homicide rates.
In his brief to the House of Commons Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Dr. Caillin Langmann noted that background checks on individuals applying for a firearm license have had no impact on homicide and spousal homicide rates where firearms were involved.