Canada Guns Gun Control Crime
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By Vincent Harinam and Gary Mauser, PhD

Recent public shootings – one in Toronto in July and another in New Brunswick in August – guarantee that gun control will become a key political issue in next year’s federal election. The issue of gun control is expected to be debated at a federal cabinet retreat this week in Nanaimo, B.C. According to federal officials, a number of options are currently being studied and could be announced in the fall.

The ruling Liberal Party sees gun control as a possible “wedge” issue. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s good sense will probably stop the federal Liberals from endorsing any of the more radical suggestions emanating out of Toronto, such as banning more handguns, but Bill C-71 is made to order.

Officially known as An Act to Amend Certain Acts and Regulations in Relation to FirearmsBill C-71 assumes that constricting the lawful sale and use of firearms will reduce criminal violence.

The draft legislation proposes new provisions which augment Canada’s already strict gun control regime.

To possess a firearm, Canadians must qualify for a firearm license (and keep it current under threat of prison time). Carrying anything that could be used for protection risks police charges for carrying a weapon. Even a rolled-up magazine counts, if the purpose is self-defence. Handguns are registered, and ownership is limited to target shooters and collectors. Firearms already must be transported unloaded, trigger locked, and in a locked container. Permits to carry concealed handguns for protection are exceptionally rare.

Bill C-71 would tighten firearms legislation in several ways, including: extending background checks to cover a buyer’s life history (instead of just the past five years), reinstating the requirement to request permits to transport restricted firearms to gun shops or gun shows, and unleashing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police [Ed: Canada’s federal police] to restrict or prohibit firearms.

Under the new legislation, Canadians would again be required to undergo nightly police checks as law enforcement determines. Firearm vendors would also have to retain sales information for 20 years, a move decried by some as a “backdoor gun registry”.

According to Minister Goodale, Bill C-71 is a response to substantial increases in firearm-related offences since 2013. It is claimed to be legislation driven and justified by the empirical evidence. Or so it would seem.

In actuality, the statistical basis for Bill C-71 is very weak. It relies on faulty assumptions regarding crime and firearms and breaks with the government’s promise of legislation tempered by “evidence-based decision making”.

Minister Goodale’s assertion that “gun homicides are up by two-thirds since 2013” should concern Canadians. After all, that’s quite an increase. But why select 2013 as the baseline for comparison? Because 2013 was a year of historical lows, a statistical outlier of sorts.

According to Statistics Canada, 2013 had the lowest police-recorded crime rate since 1969. In fact, it had the lowest rate of criminal homicides in 50 years (1.45 per 100,000) as well as the lowest rate of fatal shootings ever recorded by Statistics Canada (0.38 per 100,000).

By selecting a year of record lows, marginal increases in succeeding years look like significant surges. This explains Minister Goodale’s decision to use just these four years (2013 to 2016) of crime data instead of the standard five. Selecting 2012 as the point of comparison would considerably weaken the perception that gun violence had increased precipitously.

Gun homicides have not exploded. They have regressed to normal levels prior to 2013. In fact, Canada’s crime rate has steadily declined since the 1990’s.

What’s more, Bill C-71 misunderstands the nature and frequency of violent crime. Most crimes in Canada are neither violent nor involve a firearm.

In 2016, violent crime made up 20% of all Criminal Code offences. In fact, 78% of violent crimes did not involve a weapon. When a weapon is used, either a knife or a blunt instrument is preferred. “Other weapons” account for 19%of weapons-related offences. Only 3% of violent crimes involved a firearm in 2016. This rate oscillated between 1.9% and 2.3% between 2009 and 2014.

Since 1995, knife-related and firearm-related homicides have kept apace, repeatedly trading places as the most common homicide method in Canada.

If we are adopting a public safety measure based on lives lost, why hasn’t Bill C-71 targeted knives? After all, of the four years used in Minister Goodale’s assessment, three (2013, 2014, and 2015) had more knife homicides than gun homicides.

Nevertheless, Bill C-71 fails to address the area where gun violence has actually risen over the past 20 years: gangs. Gang violence has steadily risen since the 1990’s, increasing from under 10% of all homicides in 1999 to 24 % in 2016.

Importantly, the 20% increase in homicides between 2013 and 2016 was driven by an astonishing 68% increase in gang-related homicides over that period. In 2016, 54% of all firearm-related homicides were gang-related.

However, this rise in gang violence is concentrated in several urban hubs. From 2013 to 2016, gang-related homicides doubled in metropolitan areas. In Regina alone, the rate of firearm-related violence is up 113% (26 per 100,000 in 2013 to 59 per 100,000 in 2016).

Though rates of firearm violence in urban and rural areas are comparable, a large proportion of violent crime occurs in First Nations Reserves, which predominate in rural Canada. In fact, Minister Goodale suggested that new drug markets were driving gangs into indigenous communities.

Crucially, Bill C-17’s focus on the legal means of firearm ownership disregards illegal channels.

The firearms used by gangs are generally smuggled into Canada as part of the drug trade. Analyses of guns recovered from criminal activity in various Canadian cities show that over two-thirds had been smuggled.

This is not to suggest that illegal firearms cannot be acquired domestically. However, the claim that there has been an increase in straw purchasing where gang-affiliated people with clean criminal records get firearm licences to traffic guns is not supported by any statistics.

In general, the claim that there has been an increase in illegal firearms obtained from “domestic sources” is not backed by Statistics Canada.

However, there is a large pool of firearms in Canada with questionable legality. When firearm licensing was introduced in 2001, between one-third and one-half of then law-abiding Canadian gun owners declined to apply for a license. Though civilian gun owners ranged from 3.3 million to 4.5 million in 2001, fewer than 2 million licenses were issued. Many guns and gun owners remain outside the system.

Instead of calling for more laws, a better approach would be to enforce current laws. We urge authorities to focus on the following areas:

1) Enhancing the treatment of mental illness;

2) Focusing directly on gangs and organized crime;

3) Investing in Canada Border Services Agency to address the smuggling of drugs and firearms into Canada.

In sum, a more measured approach is required. Measures like Bill C-71 which focus exclusively on law-abiding Canadians appear more as “red herrings” than effective crime-reduction strategies.

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Some additional References:


Vincent Harinam is a law enforcement consultant and research associate at the Independence Institute. He is set to pursue his PhD in Criminology at the University of Cambridge.

Gary Mauser, PhD is professor emeritus in the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies and the Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia. He specializes in criminology and economics, has published extensively on firearms legislation, firearms and violence, and has provided expert testimony on criminal justice issues to the Canadian government.

This article originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission. 

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    • They legalized weed nationwide …there should be NO more drug problems…at least that is what the proponents of legal weed in the USA say…

      • No, there will be no more weed smugglers. Till the government is out of all drugs, as they should be, there will still be drug smugglers.

    • there’s something of a tradition…and a need….for firearms in canada…if the laws become too restrictive it should not be surprising that many choose to ignore them……..

  1. When a muslim extremist kills someone, we are warned by liberals against blaming all muslims for the actions of a few. When an illegal alien kills someone, liberals warn us against painting all illegal aliens with the same brush. When some gang banger kills another gang banger, or when some psychotic kid – who is know by the authorities to be dangerous – kills someone, liberals are quick to assert that the NRA and ALL gunowners are to blame for “gun violence”.

    I don’t know what to do about this sort of mental rope a dope, but I’m damned tired of liberal bigotry.

    • Libs/dems are inclusive and loving until you do something they disagree with…like own guns.,..then you are automatically a racist or bigot…

  2. And just in time too, with all those immigrants that just entered Canada, the time is right to make Canadians less able to defend themselves…

  3. As an American who has crossed into Canada twice I have a word of warning. You know those little safes a lot of us have to keep a gun in at times? Remove it from your vehicle before you cross into Canada. We were selected for additional inspection and they found the empty safe under the seat. They ask again if we were carrying any weapons or ammo and I said no, I have the safe in case I ever needed to lock items up. We’ve used the safe before at the beach to lock items up for instance. I gave them the key so they could open it and watched as they went wild opening every single thing in the vehicle.
    To the point of even unrolling socks and taking the batteries out of a small radio. Left us with quite the mess, I have no plans to ever visit there again.

    • Lucky they did not drop your gas tank and search it…or dismantle the vehicle doors and panels

      • Probably didn’t because none of the screws on our truck were Robertsons.
        Up until then things seemed to be fine. We of course were asked several times if we had guns or ammo or prohibited items to which I replied no. When asked if I owned guns I said yes and when asked where they were I said about 3500 miles from here. Then the person asking us said we had come up as the random extra inspection. And things went downhill from there. We did enter Canada but no way will I go there again.

      • My dad used to play hockey with a Middle Eastern guy, and they took his new Ferrari on a trip to Canada. He decided to flirt with the border guard and she decided to tear his new car apart down to the last screw.

    • Kenw
      I declared rifle, spare barrel and parts at small border crossing going from Montana last year without any problems. Nice lady at visitors centre had given me customs forms earlier that day. Inspector just took his copy. Probably more used to firearms in that area.

      Major issues at Vancouver airport when Japanese lady at check in panicked at the word gun. Took two hours to reconfirm all paperwork before I could check in pre booked rifles for trip home to Australia. Australian customs just took their copy and asked how had the hunting been.

  4. Canadians and all people of the gun, vote with your feet, come to the free state of Arizona. Better get going before they limit the assets you can bring out, or they close the border all together. It’s all about the money.30

    • How do you involuntarily redistribute the wealth of your civilians if they go and take it with them?

    • Oh, I don’t know. They would look good on a Para-Ordnance. :^)

      The same company that makes those grips makes Australia and British flag grips, and THAT is just plain wrong.

  5. Canadian MP’s should stick to something they’re good at… like regulating maple syrup.

  6. They aren’t as dumbassed as the Brits, yet! They’ll ban guns and wonder why polar bears are eating their pets and why moose are eating their flowers.

  7. In the past, when the innocent were punished instead of the guilty this was known as a reprisal action.

    Now is it known as gun control.

  8. Canadians might look to Australia. As Hillary once said, ” Australian gun control is worth considering.”

  9. All the laws we already have are not stopping the criminals so we need to make more laws. Until the sheeple realize that laws are only to control the law abiding it will never end.

  10. When and if the powers that be, aka the people’s elected representatives, like a runaway horse, get the bit in their teeth, problems follow, often immediately, problems that the populace then have to address.

  11. When and if the powers that be, aka the people’s elected representatives, like a runaway horse, get the bit in their teeth, problems follow, often immediately, problems that the populace then have to address. The foregoing not, to the best of my rcollection, being previously stated.

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