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Facts on Women and Gun Violence

Gun control is a women’s issue: women represent a small percentage of gun owners, but they account for a high percentage of the victims of gun violence. While men are more likely to be victims of homicide generally, women are three to four times more likely than men to be victims of spousal homicide. Fear from threat of firearms has been shown to be a significant reason why women who suffer from domestic violence do not leave or seek help.

Quick Facts on Gendered Gun Violence

There were 7.1 million registered “non-restricted guns”. Referring to all of them simply as “duck guns” or “family guns” minimizes the threat they can pose to public safety. This category of guns includes rifles and shotguns, such as the powerful semi-automatic Ruger Mini 14 used in the Montreal Massacre to kill 14 young women.

Most firearm-related deaths in Canada are caused by rifles or shotguns, and these are the guns most commonly used to threaten and injure. All firearms are lethal, and any gun in the wrong hands is dangerous. We need controls on ALL guns.

When women are killed by their spouse using a gun, it is a long gun in 72% of cases. Since 1991, when controls on all firearms were first introduced, spousal homicides with rifles and shotguns have decreased by 69%.

According to the Statistics Canada 2010 Family Violence in Canada Statistical Profile, while the overall rate of spousal homicide declined by 44% between 1980 and 2009, the rate of spousal homicide involving firearms fell by 74% during that same period, with the decline in use shotguns and rifles accounting for nearly all of the improvement. The decrease in the use of firearms in spousal murder has not been accompanied a concurring increase in the use of other methods of homicide.

While violence against women happens in both rural and urban areas, it is women in rural and northern areas at most at risk from gun violence, due to the higher prevalence of firearms in those regions.

A study done in the provinces of New Brunswick and PEI on family violence in rural settings found that two thirds of the women indicated the presence of firearms in their home, and said knowing about the firearms made them more fearful for their safety and well-being; it also found women were more likely to express concern for their safety when the firearms owners were not licensed and the firearms were not registered or safely stored.

On the International Day to End Violence against Women in 2010, 37 of the women who sought assistance in Alberta’s women shelters that day reported they had been threatened with a gun.

Coroners inquests have consistently identified access to firearms as one of the top risk factors determining whether a woman will die in domestic violence situations. Women’s safety experts such as the YWCA Canada have said Bill C-19 is discounting the specific safety concerns Canadian women and their disproportionate vulnerability to firearm violence in the context of domestic violence.

The long-gun registry’s annual estimated cost of $2 million pales in comparison to the cost of domestic violence in Canada. According to Justice Canada, a study estimated the cost of violence against women to Canadian society at $4.2 billion per year. In financial terms, the registry is but a small investment that reaps far greater savings elsewhere.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women has emphasized that countries which do not adequately regulate firearms are failing to meet their obligations under international law.

Guns and domestic violence are also a lethal mix in the United States, where a survey of American law enforcement agencies found that removing firearms from scenes of domestic violence calls was rated as the 2nd most effective/most used strategy to prevent gun crime.

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