Thanks very much. My name's Wendy Cukier and I'm the President of the Coalition for Gun Control. I appreciate your giving me the time to appear before you today.
I have provided a brief in both French and English. Rather than walking through the entire document, I'd just like to highlight a few key points.
The first point that is important to emphasize is that the Coalition for Gun Control was founded in 1991 and is focused on reducing gun death, injury, and crime. I say that because, as many of you know, when we look at the misuse of firearms it extends far beyond gangs and guns. Certainly, gang-related violence is a problem in big cities, but as you will have heard from many groups focused on domestic violence, the role of firearms in domestic violence is a huge issue for women's shelters across the country.
You've heard from the Canadian Paediatric Society that the misuse of guns has a particular toll, not just in terms of death but also injury. From groups like the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, and others, you've heard that the number one cause of firearms death in this country is actually suicide. From our perspective, strong and effective gun control regulation is a critical part of a crime prevention strategy, but it's also a critical part of a suicide prevention strategy, and of any strategy that is attempting to address issues around violence against women, or indeed radicalization and political violence. How we define the issue is important.
Many Canadians take pride in the fact that the rates of gun injury, death, and crime in Canada are much lower than in the United States. It was ironic that we saw Canadians across the country join in solidarity with the March for Our Lives in the U.S. to ban the AR-15 there, yet we've just heard that in Canada it's sold as a restricted firearm. Many Canadians don't know a lot about how our gun laws actually compare to those in the United States. They certainly don't know that currently most U.S. states have better controls over the sales and traceability of rifles, shotguns, and unrestricted weapons than we now do in Canada. Most Canadians, when asked, support stronger gun laws. We've provided a recent poll in the brief, but the polls are consistent.
What's also interesting is that this is without question a gendered issue. While polls will show that the majority of gun owners may oppose certain kinds of firearms regulation, the majority of people living with gun owners support them. In those very rural communities where people are very concerned about the opinions of gun owners, it's important to underscore the fact that there are many people living with gun owners who actually support stronger gun laws. The gender splits on this issue are quite clear.
The other thing that is important to emphasize is that in much of the discussion around firearms control, it has been presented as an urban issue, with the elites imposing their will on law-abiding gun owners in rural areas. However, if you actually look at the data, the rates of gun death and injury in rural communities in the west are much higher than in the cities. Rates of women and their children being threatened with guns in domestic violence are higher in rural areas. Rates of suicide, particularly among youth, are higher in rural areas. The rates at which police officers are shot and killed are higher in rural areas and in the police services that operate there. The guns that are typically used in those environments are rifles and shotguns, which are currently sold as unrestricted weapons.
The other piece that I think we need to be attentive to just as background to this issue is the sources of guns that are misused. When we look at rural communities, when we look at the west, when we look at, for example, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, and so forth, what you will see is a predominance of unrestricted rifles and shotguns, especially in domestic violence, suicide and the murders of police officers, and many of those guns are legally owned.
On the other hand, when we look at gang-related violence in big cities it's no surprise that handguns are the firearms most often used. One of the very troubling trends that we have seen in recent years, which we would say is a direct result of the relaxation of controls over the sales of firearms, and particularly restricted and prohibited weapons, is, first of all, a doubling of restricted and prohibited weapons. There are now more than a million in Canada. They're supposed to be restricted and prohibited because they're considered to represent a greater risk than other sorts of guns. But the other phenomenon, which you may have heard about from other witnesses, is that for the first time in 30 years more of the firearms recovered in crime in Toronto that were traced were traced back to Canadian sources, rather than smuggled in from the United States. That's largely a function of the fact that it's easier to get guns now in Canada and so there's less demand for smuggling.
The Illegal Firearms Task Force from British Columbia, which I'm sure many of you saw, has reinforced that the same thing has happened in British Columbia among the firearms that they have traced. I think it's worth emphasizing that the diversion of legal guns has become a much bigger problem. I want to quote from this and read into the record:
Over the past three years in B.C., however, approximately 60 per cent were sourced in Canada, according to data from the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST). NWEST attributes this trend to changes in firearms legislation in states such as Washington and Oregon requiring recordkeeping at the point of sale for all firearms, which allows tracing to identify a purchaser.
In Canada, there is no national legislation to require record keeping for sales of nonrestricted firearms. Unlike many American states, sellers need not keep any records of sales of non-restricted firearms. Purchasers can re-sell, trade or give away a firearm without keeping records. Without sales records, crime investigators often cannot trace the ownership of crime guns
I think it's critically important to remind people, and I know you know this, that when the registry was dismantled, the registration of rifles and shotguns was dismantled, the 1977 legislation, which required restricted weapons to be tracked by dealers, was not reinstated, in spite of cries from police and particularly conservative witnesses who came before the committee.
There are three amendments that we are hoping you will consider. One is with respect to licensing, ensuring that the provisions are broad enough to address the intent, which is that a person is not eligible to hold a licence if it is desirable in the interests of the safety of that or any other person, meaning suicide prevention is supposed to be one of the measures considered in the licensing provision. We would like a (d) section added to the list that says, is considered a threat to themselves or any other person.
The second revision is with respect to the record-keeping. I refer to the table at the back and the 1977 legislation. We would like to see added, “The business must produce the record and inventory for inspection at the request of any police officer or police constable or any other person authorized by regulations”, etc.
I think returning to the legislation from 40 years ago is a small price to pay. It would bring us in line with the legislation in the United States, and no matter what people say it is not a reinstatement of the registry.
The final point is that previously the authorizations to transport were restrictive, in that they said you were authorized to take your firearm from two or more specified locations, i.e. your home, to a shooting range. The legislation that was introduced a few years ago changed that to require that you be authorized to take the firearm to any shooting club in the province where you're resident. There are shooting clubs in every community. That, in fact, is carte blanche to be transporting the firearm.
Thank you very much. There are some other matters I can discuss with you as well.