This article is part of a Daily Kos Firearms Law and Policy group series on Gun Laws and Shooting Injuries in Canada and Australia. The series will examine the experience of Canada and Australia: the gun reforms that were implemented in each country and the research studies done subsequently to observe how the laws affected the incidence and frequency of shooting injuries. The series has three parts: Part I presents an overview and summary (here). Part II is presented here, and reviews the gun law reforms established in Canada, and the known results of those reforms on the incidence of gun violence in Canada. Part III reviews the gun law reforms instituted in Australia, and the subsequent incidence of gun violence in Australia (here). All three parts of this series are available to interested readers today, but are being published as separate articles over three consecutive days. Readers can read all three parts today, but can only comment in the articles already published.
Changes to Canadian gun laws evolved naturally over a period of decades, as the nation’s leaders recognized and responded to changes in firearms and the people who use them. During the 1990’s, there was an increase in the amount and pace of gun legislation, with the passage of two major pieces of legislation.
1934 – legislation requires the registration of handguns, identifying the owner, the owner’s address, and the type of handgun owned. Owners of handguns were issued a certificate of registration.Today, Canada ranks 13th in the world in terms of civilian gun ownership; with an estimated 31 civilian guns per 100 population, for a total of 9.95 million guns in the country as a whole. In contrast, the USA ranks #1 in the world in civilian firearm ownership, with an estimated 89 civilian firearms per 100 population, and a total of 270 million firearms in the country altogether.
(Source: Small Arms Survey.org)
|In 1993, Lester and Leenars reported on a study of suicide in Canada before and after passage of Bill C-51 in 1977. They used data from yearly Canadian health surveys. The data showed that before passage of the law, the total suicide rate, the firearm suicide rate, and the rate of suicides using other methods had all been increasing. In the eight years after passage of the law, both the firearm suicide rate and the percentages of suicides using a firearm showed a statistically significant decrease. There was no evidence of any increase in suicides using other methods. There was a (not statistically significant) decrease in the total suicide rate after passage of the law. The authors conclude that stricter firearm controls are associated with declines in suicides rates.
(Source: Lester D, Leenaars A. Psychological Reports 1993; 72:787-790)
The same research team published a follow-on study in 1997 stratifying the suicide data by age groups. This revised analysis showed that the firearm suicide rate decreased after implementation of Bill C-17 for adults aged 35-64. For the age groups 15-34 and 64+, the firearm suicide rate continued the increases seen before the bill became law.
FS Bridges used data from Statistics Canada to examine suicide and homicide in the seven years prior to and after passage of Bill C-17 in 1991. In the 7 years prior to the passage of Bill C-17, the mean total suicide rate was 13.11 (per 100,000 population), the mean firearm suicide rate was 4.09, the mean non-firearm suicide rate was 9.02, and the percentage of suicides using a firearm was 31.2%. In the 7 years after passage of the bill, the mean total suicide rate was 12.95, the mean firearm suicide rate was 3.17, the mean non-firearm suicide rate was 9.76, and the percentage of suicides using a firearm was 24.5%. So passage of Bill C-17 was associated with a decline in the firearm suicide rate and the percentage of suicides using a firearm, and with an increase in the non-firearm suicide rate. There was no real change in the overall suicide rate.
In the 7 years prior to the passage of C-17, the mean total homicide rate was 2.04 (per 100,000 population), the mean firearm homicide rate was 0.69, the mean non-firearm homicide rate was 1.35, and the mean percentage of homicides using a firearm was 33.7%. In the 7 years after passage of C-17, the mean total homicide rate was 1.71, the mean firearm homicide rate was 0.57, the mean non-firearm homicide rate was 1.15, and the percentage of homicides using a firearm was 32.99%. Passage of Bill C-17 was associated with decreases in the overall rate of homicides, the firearm homicide rate, and the non-firearm homicide rate. There was no significant change in the percent of homicides using a firearm.
Using linear regression, the research team demonstrated that rates for firearm suicide and homicide were essentially unchanged in the seven years prior to passage of Bill C-17. In the seven years after passage of Bill C-17, the rate of firearm suicides and firearm homicides, and the rate of all homicides all decreased significantly.
The authors conclude that passage and enforcement of stricter gun control laws are associated with decreases in suicide and homicide rates. The authors note there is evidence that some people switched methods of suicide in response to the change in gun laws.
* indicates a statistically significant difference
Historically in Canada, the incidence of violent crimes has shown an overall increase until the early 1990s, with large decreases in the years since. Rates of assault, sexual assault, and robbery have all declined since 1993. Declines in violent crime have been most notable among young males. Rates of homicide in Canada have been declining since the mid-1970s. (Source: Statistics Canada)
In 1998, the Canadian Department of Justice released a report titled “Firearms, Accidental Deaths, Suicides and Violent Crime”. The report stated that there were at that time an estimated seven million firearms in Canada, with a household firearm ownership rate of 26%. The report found 3.8 fatal firearm injuries per 100,000 population, and the 80% of these were suicides and 12.4% were homicides, and that the rate of fatal firearm injuries had been decreasing steadily since 1978 (which is, as it turns out, the year Bill C-51 was first implemented). The report stated that the proportion of suicides using a gun had been decreasing for the previous two decades, and that the Canadian experience proves that regulations and restrictions can reduce firearm suicides without reducing the level of firearm ownership. The report found that both the homicide rate and the firearm homicide rate have been decreasing since 1975, but that no single factor could fully explain these decreases. While robberies had been increasing in Canada, the percentage of robberies involving a firearm had been decreasing. The report says that research into the impact of changes to firearm laws in 1977, 1991, and 1995 on crime statistics is so far inconclusive, and more research is needed.
The 1990s were a period of significant change in Canadian gun laws. Data on the actual number of guns in Canada before and after the gun reforms is not available. A variety of empirical studies have documented decreases in shooting deaths in the years since: decreases in gun homicides and gun suicides. Overall decreases in violent crimes gives evidence that gun regulations do not leave the public vulnerable to criminal attack and do not result in greater crime victimization.
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