This is the final part in a series about firearms ownership. It will delve into statistic and a little bit about the politics surrounding firearms policies. As I am based in Canada I will be focusing on the firearms data from here, as it is once again a hot topic in the current political climate. Regardless of your country of origin, whether firearms are allowed, not allowed, or are a political hot topic, I encourage you to look at the actual data surrounding violence with firearms rather than just believing what you are told in the media.
While violent crime and homicides certainly can, and do, involve firearms, it is not the tool that causes the crime and violence; it is we humans. In the first part of this series I presented the idea that we humans are in fact still animals, and I addressed the origins of our ability to attack from afar, but, more importantly, we discussed the notion of predator and prey within humankind. The thing is, when people make a decision based on fear, want, or need, they can decide to take violent action with or with out a projectile. Whether true or not, one of the foundational stories in the Western biblical tradition is that of Caine and Abel; in which we are told that Caine kills his brother with a large rock. The reality is, given the right circumstances most humans could probably kill another human, even if it is far less common per capita in today’s world than in past societies.
Additionally, simply removing projectiles or firearms does NOT reduce the crime and violence, as, again, firearms do not cause the crime they are simply a tool to commit the crime. A good example is the city of London, England which has a high crime rate, including homicide, that has been increasing over the past few years. 61% of those killed in London in 2019 had their lives ended by a knife. But I will connect back to this later.
I don’t want to make this all about crime and murder, because let’s be honest MOST legal firearm owners don’t commit such crimes, despite what the media may have you believe.
In Canada as of Dec 31st 2020, there were about 2,198,275 Firearm’s license holders according to the RCMP licensing program, but according to an Angus Reid poll there may actually be more than 4 million gun owners. This means that more than 2 million Canadians possess a firearms license and another 2 million are likely those who are older and never got a license when the program was implemented in 1977 or live in the middle of nowhere and inherited firearms and also never got their license. This is relevant, as in Canada you cannot purchase a firearm without a license. Yet as a Firearms Safety course instructor I have had more than one (older) individual tell me they were instructed by their local police to get their license if they wanted to keep their firearms, which means that (depending where you live) the police as a general rule are not out to “take your guns” in Canada (just those officers who go rogue or department heads that are pushing politics.)
This translates to about 6-8% of the population at any given time legally owning firearms or holding a firearms license, though if the 4 million number is any level of accurate then it’s probably a little over 10% of the country that own firearms. This also means if 2 million Canadian citizens own guns without a license, then, though they are technically breaking the law, they are obviously not violent criminals doing malicious things. If they were, then Canada would be a complete mess, riddled with gun-related crime, but this isn’t the case so it should be a strong indicator that owning a firearm does not immediately make you violent or a criminal (in the traditional sense of the word).
Firearms owners allegedly own almost 20 million firearms with one million of them being pistols.
I wanted to take a look at two different sets of numbers from data collected from approximately 2000-2016 (Fully analyzed, government data sets are usually many years behind in Canada).
The first is Firearm Deaths. Usually when people think “firearm deaths” they think “gang violence” or a “hollywood style murder,” but in Canada this is not the cause of most firearms related deaths.
As of 2000-2016 the 13,168 total recorded firearms deaths can be broken down as follows:
- 75% By Suicide
- 20% Homicide (Murder)
- 2% Accidental
- 1% Legal Intervention (Law Enforcement)
- 1% Undetermined
This means, give or take any given year, 78-80% of firearm deaths in Canada are unrelated to crime or violence against others. Yes, you read that right! Most gun deaths, by a LARGE margin, are not related to gangs, violence or crime but rather they are linked to mental health issues or (in some cases) bad life decisions.
Additionally depending on who is recording the data and how it may be presented, suicide and accidents may be classified as a “Misuse of a Firearm”. That is because suicide or accidental death is not an intended use of the firearm and therefore, legally speaking, is a misuse. Under the law in Canada if you are charged with Misuse of a Firearm you could (depending on circumstances) lose your license and guns, and be charged criminally. Thus you can see how if someone wanted to they could easily misrepresent these statistics by playing with the definitions then talking only about gang violence, which may leave many readers assuming most deaths are gang-related, which is very much false.
But let’s put this into perspective regarding actual violent crime in Canada. Violent crime makes about about 20% of all Police reported crime as of 2016 (it has increased over the last few years) the rest being made up of 61% property crime and 19% other criminal code offenses (likely “white-collar” crime). But let’s break down the actual Violent Crime numbers further:
- 78% had NO weapon
- 20% Other weapons
- 3% Firearm
Yes, once again firearms are responsible for a tiny fraction of violent crimes in this country.
But let’s say I wanted to make the numbers worse, I could say “20% of firearms deaths are homicides” even though of all VIOLENT crimes, not all of which are homicides, only 3% involved firearms. All homicides would be a violent crime, but stating the numbers in a different way makes them appear larger and more threatening.
Comparing the same year 2016, there were 611 Homicides, with a rate of 1.7 homicide per 100,000 people. Which generally has been a decrease year over year since a peak back in 1975. This means given an average of 20% of 611 people, only 122 were killed by a firearm. Beyond that the specifics can be hard to find. Of course, usually the media focuses on those killed by firearms, particularly if it was in public, which can skew the public perception of violence quite dramatically. Compare this to 2019 where 678 homicides (great graphical break down on this link) occurred, at a rate of 1.8 homicides per 100,000 people, which would place the 20% of firearms homicides at 135 persons killed by firearms.
Now if I was anti-firearm or pushing a similar agenda, which I feel the current government is, I could compare the increase of 135 person with the previous 122 persons and say that firearms crime is up 10.12%. Saying “Gun Homicide is up almost 11%” is a far scarier and more manipulative presentation of the data than simply saying “13 more people were killed with a gun in 2019 than 2016.”
I hope you are getting my point. In a country like Canada, the average gun owner, and firearms in general, are NOT a threat to public safety. This can also further be proven by the fact that the MAJORITY of guns used in homicide, particularly those involved in gang-related shootings (which there has been an increase in Toronto), aren’t even legally acquired in Canada; they are illegally smuggled into the country, sold on the black market, and possessed/carried illegally. This puts the fault on Canadian law enforcement, smugglers, and with the politics and policy regarding boarders rather than the average gun owning Canadian. Yet, if you pay attention to Canadian media, or our so-called leaders, they would try to convince you otherwise. The reason for gangs choosing smuggled Illegal guns, particularly handguns, is a simple one; in Canada handguns must be registered and therefore can be easily tracked to their owner if found. So it makes sense to use an illegal gun if you wish to evade capture by the police.
In fact, in 2016 there were 141 GANG homicides. The way it is written implies firearms are used in most of these cases, however if we accept the figure that approximately 122 people were killed with firearms in 2016, then not all of the gang homicides could have been committed with a firearm. However, it can be reasonably assumed, based on media coverage and illegal smuggling, that a large percentage of them (if not the majority) were carried out with a firearm. This means, therefore, I could reasonably assume that the majority of homicides involving firearms are in fact these gang-related ones, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver.
Yet politicians and much of the media are still trying to take guns away from the average, law-abiding citizen who has very little to do with these activities. So ask yourself, does this make any sense?
I want you to take the time and take a look at this power point prepared by the government of Canada’s “Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics” in 2019.
Do you see how they presented the data as a matter of percentage increase rather than numbers? Quite manipulative don’t you think? I certainly do.
So, I wanted to connect back to what I said about London earlier and how most of their homicides are committed with with knife. While there are certainly socioeconomic factors, as well as general upbringing influences, like single parent homes, that dramatically affect crime, there is also the matter of a region’s policy approach to crime. In 2015 Justin Trudeau was elected Prime Minister of Canada and has been in power ever since (re-elected twice!). There has also been a dramatic difference in the approach to how criminals and crime are managed. Though correlation does not equal causation specifically, to say that a lighter approach to real crime from a policy perspective doesn’t have an effect on crime is a little silly. Though our numbers in Canada regarding homicide and firearms are only up by 10s, not 100s or 1000s, one only needs to look at the “defund the police” movement in the states and the dramatic and shocking increase in violent crime to conclude that a government’s policy, as well as those other factors, have a much larger negative impact on violent crime and violent crime with firearms than regular citizens simply having and owning a variety of firearms.
While I can only speculate as to the many reasons why particular politicians choose to focus on taking guns away from law-abiding citizens, I can say that when properly informed the average Canadian doesn’t support gun bans, this includes the RCMP, which is contrary to what the media might have you believe.
So before you buy into any narrative (on any topic) make sure you really look into it prior to forming a concrete opinion or idea, because this is how you become an informed, critically thinking citizen.
I hope this series has been both informative and entertaining, and has swayed you in the direction of safe and legal gun ownership, no matter where you live.
Written by Jonathan Fader.
*Please read, learn and follow your local laws to know what is acceptable in your society and country regarding firearms, self-defence, and personal ownership. Do not break the law in your country regardless of your personal beliefs.