Myths and Facts

The debate on gun control in Canada suffers from the spread of misinformation and untruths, many of which sound credible on the surface, but don’t hold up under further scrutiny. Don’t be fooled by the sound bites, get the real facts below.

Myth #1: “Guns don’t kill, people kill.”

People with guns kill more efficiently. Where there are more guns there are more deaths.

Myth #2: “’Duck guns’, ‘family guns’, ‘gopher guns’ are not a problem, just handguns.”

Rifles and shotguns kill just as dead as handguns. These are the guns most used in domestic violence and to kill police officers. The gun used to kill 14 young women in the Montreal Massace is still sold as a non-restricted hunting rifle.

Myth #3: “Guns are a big city problem.”

Gun violence takes many forms. Gang-related homicides and crimes are only part of a myriad of issues associated with the misuse of firearms, such as domestic violence and suicides. While gang crime in urban areas makes the news, there are higher rates of gun death and injury in rural areas because of the higher rates of gun ownership.

Myth #4:“Gun control ‘punishes’ law abiding gun owners and farmers.”

There is a human cost to gun violence and survivors feel the “punishment” every day. Licensing gun owners and registering guns one time do not prevent guns from being used for lawful purposes.

Myth #5:“Gun control is expensive.”

Gun control is not cheap but neither is gun violence and costs must be put into perspective. If we look to the United States, we can easily see the enormous costs of inadequate controls on firearms. In 1995, the costs of gun violence were estimated at $6.6 billion dollars annually. Canada’s gun control legislation has been singled out for its significant impact on reducing gun death and injury in Canada, the decrease in gun injuries and gun deaths since 1995 equaling savings of up to $1.4 billion Canadian dollars a year. A single murder investigation costs $500,000. A study commissioned by the federal Department of Justice and released in 2012 showed that gun crime costs Canadians $3.1 billion, of which $2.5 billion were costs borne by victims and $302 million represented costs to the justice system. Government documents released through Access to Information confirmed that the long-gun registry, which allowed police to trace rifles and shotguns, cost $2 million per year, and that there would be no savings to taxpayers from its abolition as those funds were to be reinvested to compensate for the public safety weaknesses that the registry’s elimination created.

Myth #6:“Registration is a waste of time, handguns have been registered for 30 years but they are still used in crime.”

No law prevents all crime, but the evidence shows our gun control legislation has been effective. The substantially lower rate of handgun violence in Canada compared to the U.S. is a testament to the effectiveness of our gun control program. While rates of homicide without guns in the U.S. are only slightly higher (1.3x) than in Canada, whereas rates of homicide with handguns are much higher (7.3x). At least half the handguns recovered in crime originate in the U.S., in large part because they do not have effective controls.

Myth #7:“Gun control doesn’t work.”

Empirical evidence shows that stronger gun control laws have helped reduce gun violence. The number and rates of firearm homicides, suicides, and accidents have decreased with stronger gun controls. The rate of homicide with rifles and shotguns has decreased by 53% since 1995. Homicides with handguns have remained relatively stable, as most illegal handguns are smuggled, and are therefore not affected as much by domestic controls.

Myth #8:“Criminals don’t bother with gun control, what we need is crime control.”

Strong controls over legal guns reduce the chance that they will fall into the wrong hands. Licensing gun owners and registering firearms reduces the chance that guns will fall into the hands of dangerous and suicidal people. Controls over legal guns are essential to preventing diversion and choking off the illegal supply. Almost 3000 guns are stolen annually in Canada, by definition ending up in the hands of criminals. In 2010, 43.5% of guns recovered in homicides were registered. The very fact that registered guns are not used often in crime suggests that the system is working – legal guns for the most part are being used by legal owners for legitimate purposes.