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 clinical professor of medicine and an emergency physician in Ontario. I serve as an academic peer reviewer in the areas of firearm control, homicide, suicide, violence and gang deterrence for academic journals. I have four peer-reviewed publications on legislation and the effects on homicide and suicide in Canada.
In 2022 I presented and submitted studies and a report regarding Bill C-21 to the committee. The research demonstrated that previous bans in the 1990s of a large number of handguns had no effect on homicide rates.
Currently a definition of “assault rifles” and subsequent bans has been proposed. 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 owned restricted firearms has doubled from 572,000 to 1.2 million; however, the rate of overall firearms homicide has not increased, nor has the rate of homicide by handguns. There have been recent fluctuations, similar to levels in the early 2000s, but the rate of homicide has actually fluctuated about a steady mean when statistical analysis is performed.
In the 1990s, legislation prohibited over 550,000 firearms, including military-style firearms and handguns. However, my studies have demonstrated that there was no statistically significant benefit on homicide, spousal homicide or mass homicide rates in Canada. Restrictions of magazine capacity in 1994 were not associated with decreases in homicide or mass homicide rates. Prohibition of fully automatic firearms in the late 1970s was also not associated with decreases in homicide or mass homicide rates.
Other jurisdictions such as Australia and England have also applied significant controls to handguns and semi-automatic rifles, and in multiple studies no statistically significant changes in homicide rates were detected. Studies from the United States examining assault weapon bans have also revealed no significant benefit. Blau et al. and Siegel et al. found that these legislations were not associated with a decrease in victims.
Interestingly, when looking at 30 years of incidents, Blau found that shotguns were more associated with an increase in victims than semi-automatic rifles. Webster et al., using similar quasi-experimental methodology as I, did not find an association between assault weapon bans and public mass homicide incidents or deaths.
In summary, the evidence so far demonstrates that the proposed handgun and semi-automatic rifle bans would have no associated reduction in homicide rates or mass homicide rates. Methods that have been shown to be more effective in reducing firearms homicides involve targeting the demand side of the firearms prevalence in criminal activity. As demonstrated by StatsCan, a significant percentage of firearms homicide involves gang violence.
To reduce the violence that is currently occurring in Canada's cities, the evidence suggests that you need to act early to reduce youth gang involvement. A research report by Public Safety Canada in 2012 gathered evidence from programs operating in Canada to reduce the gang participation rate and demonstrated beneficial effects in the range of a 50% reduction in participation.
Targeting legal firearms owners, who rarely commit crimes, with new legislation already shown to have no significant statistical benefit will not change Canada's death rates by firearms. The likely billions of dollars forecasted to be spent on confiscating firearms would be better spent on youth diversion and gang reduction programs.