Thank you for letting me present my research regarding Canadian firearms legislation and its association with homicide, spousal homicide, mass homicide and suicide in Canada.
I am an assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University and an emergency physician in Hamilton. I serve as an academic peer reviewer in the areas of firearm control, homicide, suicide, violence and gang deterrence for academic journals and have four peer-reviewed publications on legislation and the effects on homicide and suicide in Canada.
I have submitted my studies and a report regarding the current proposed legislation to the committee. However, I will briefly summarize it.
Bill C-21 proposes two significant regulations: an essential ban on handgun sales and a regime allowing for emergency firearms prohibition orders. My research on previous Canadian legislation is applicable in answering the question of what the effects of this legislation may be.
Since 2003, the number of restricted firearms, including handguns, has doubled from 572,000 to 1.2 million. However, the rate of overall firearm homicide has not increased, nor has the rate of homicide by handguns. While there has been a recent increase similar to the levels in the early 2000s, the rates of homicides have actually fluctuated about a steady mean when statistical analysis is performed. Please see the graph attached to my brief.
In the 1990s, legislation banned over 550,000 firearms, many of them handguns. However, research has demonstrated that there was no statistically significant benefit regarding homicide, spousal homicide or mass homicide rates from this. While suicide by firearm decreased, hanging replaced it and no overall changes in suicide occurred. Other jurisdictions, such as Australia and England, have also applied significant controls to handguns and no statistically significant changes in homicide rates were detected.
In terms of emergency prohibition orders, currently a system exists where anyone can report a firearm owner to the CFO. I personally have been involved in this process as a physician with psychiatric patients and have found the response to be quick and efficient regarding the removal of firearms and licences.
For physicians, there's currently a system where one can detain a patient under an application for psychiatric assessment if one has justified concerns for homicidal or suicidal intentions. I utilize this method regularly. At such a point, we can explore risk reduction with suicidal patients. I have concerns about expanding this process further in terms of sharing confidential patient data with a CFO without consent. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has also warned about this in their 2001 report on the firearms program.
In the 1990s, Canada made changes allowing people to report concerns to the CFO and allowing the CFO to revoke licences and confiscate firearms. Unfortunately, research demonstrates that these Canadian regulations have had no effect on homicide, spousal homicide or mass homicide rates. Interestingly, a recent study on protection orders in California also revealed no associated benefit from similar regulations.
In summary, the evidence so far demonstrates that handgun laws will have no associated reduction in homicide rates or overall suicide rates. The replacement of the current emergency protection system is redundant.
The proposed recent gun bans and new regulations may well cost billions of dollars to implement and enforce. The current finance minister announced recently that Canada will need to adopt equal cuts for all new spending. Nova Scotia needs to invest $500 million in its health care system. My city currently faces emergency wait times of six to eight hours, and it takes me months to have a psychiatric patient seen by psychiatry. The money being considered for these firearms programs would have greater effect being invested in health care where lives would benefit.