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Decreasing Gun Violence and Gun Crime

Establishing causal relationships between complex factors is difficult. However, firearm deaths in Canada have declined with stricter controls on firearms, particularly with controls on rifles and shotguns, introduced in 1977, 1991 and 1995.

  • The rate of death involving guns is the lowest it has been in over 40 years. In fact, 400 fewer Canadians died of gunshots in 2007 (723) compared to 1995 (1125).
  • Public health studies have assessed the impact of the Firearms Act. For example the Institut de santé publique du Québec has concluded that the Firearms Act has led to 50 fewer homicides and 250 fewer suicides annually in Canada.
  • Since the long-gun registry and its related requirements for safe storage of guns were introduced, youth suicide rates by firearms have declined in relation to suicide rates by other means. While the rate of suicide with firearms has dropped 48% since 1995, the rate of suicide without firearms has remained stable.
  • Rates of robbery committed with firearms have plummeted (-43%) while rates of robbery committed by other means have decreased only by 9%.
  • Murders with rifles and shotguns have decreased dramatically, from 61 in 1995 to 29 in 2009. Researches on crimes have concluded that stronger controls on firearms were followed by a significant drop in the number of homicides committed with a gun and that no tactical displacement was observed.
  • The rate of women murdered with firearms by their intimate partner has decreased by 69% since 1995.
  • While rates of homicide without firearms are comparable between Canada and the U.S., rates of homicides with firearms are 6.4 times higher in the U.S.

Controls over legal guns are essential to preventing diversion and choking off the illegal supply as all illegal firearms begin as legal firearms. Between 1974 and 2008, 40,000 long guns and 33,000 prohibited weapons were stolen from Canadian residences, by definition ending up in the hands of criminals. More information on the source of guns used in crime is available here.

Rifles and shotguns are frequently recovered in crime. In Canada’s large cities long guns are a substantial proportion of guns recovered in crimes while in communities such as Surrey, BC and York regions in Ontario, long guns outnumber handguns 2 to 1 in recovered crime guns. In August 2012, Ottawa police reported that long guns represented 68% of the guns seized from local gangs. In 2010 there were 111,000 guns in police custody for public safety reasons or after criminal use, 87,000 of these were long guns. Public Safety Minister Toews reported in March 2011 that 47% (24,246) of the non-restricted firearms seized by public service agencies and reported to the Canadian Firearms Program had been registered at some point.

Prior to the passage of Bill C-19 in April 2012, there were numerous examples of the gun registry helping to combat the illegal gun trade; for example, in March 2011, a licenced gun dealer from Sainte-Béatrix, QC was criminally charged for illegally selling 63 guns —including long guns— to Montreal street gangs. Police began their investigation after three guns that were previously registered to this individual were used in gang crimes. In December 2010, Sarnia Police apprehended a man suspected in the theft of three guns after an individual tried to register them.

 
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