The answer is as follows:
(a) According to Statistics Canada, firearms were the most frequently used weapon in the commission of spousal homicides between 1974 and 2000, accounting for the death of 37% of victims. (Source: Family Violence in Canada: a Statistical Profile 2002--Table 1.8)
Most domestic shootings involved long guns such as rifles and shotguns. In 1998, 63% of spousal firearm homicides were committed with shotguns or rifles. A further 21% used sawed-off shotguns or rifles. Only 16% used handguns. (Source: Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2000. Statistics Canada: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. July 2000)
(b) The rate of suicide deaths involving firearms has been steadily decreasing. In 1999, the percentage of suicides involving a firearm was 19%, from 43.7% in 1970. (Source: Statistics Canada: Causes of Death).
(c) The rate of firearms accidents has also been declining from 129 in 1970 to 31 in 1999. (Source: Statistics Canada: Causes of Death).
Overall, Canada’s homicide rate is at its lowest since 1967 and homicide committed with rifles and shotguns is steadily decreasing. The rate of robberies committed with a firearm has also declined by 62% since 1991, after consistently dropping over the past decade. (Source: Crime Statistics in Canada, 2001, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics).
(d) Regarding firearms trafficking and firearms smuggling, provisions in the Criminal Code and Firearms Act establish increased controls over firearms imports and exports, and impose penalties for smuggling and trafficking.
(e) The number of lost or missing firearms has declined by 68% from 1998 to 2001 and the number of stolen firearms has also decreased by 35% over the same period. (Source: 2001 Registrar’s Report to the Solicitor General on the Administration of the Firearms Act)
(f) The national weapons enforcement support team (NWEST), set up by the Department of Justice, is a unit of highly trained and experienced individuals who work in a support role with local law enforcement to assist in anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling efforts. The team also helps the police community in dealing with issues of violence with firearms.
Over the past year NWEST has provided support to over 2000 police files dealing with weapons, playing a key role in improving public safety and proving highly successful in helping police fight firearm related crime.
(g) NWEST has established links to a number of international law enforcement agencies, in particular the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Cooperation between the ATF and NWEST is important, as many of the firearms entering Canada, whether legally or illegally, originate in the United States.
(h) Under the Firearms Act, as of January 1, 2001, an individual must produce a valid firearms licence or FAC, or a confirmed non-resident declaration to acquire ammunition.
(i) The firearms program contributes to the reduction of crime, has a demonstrable effect in screening firearm owners to better insure safety, and requires safety training for those enjoying firearm sports. The government is focusing on a wide variety of crime reduction initiatives including efforts to better address organized crime, youth offenders, crime prevention, and gun control. The money spent on gun control contributes, with other crime control measures, to the overall safety of Canadian communities.
(j) The Canadian firearms centre is not an enforcement agency and does not collect data regarding firearm seizures. The courts are required to forward copies of all prohibition orders to the chief firearms officer in their jurisdiction in order for the CFO to take appropriate action where a firearms licence is involved. Neither the CFO nor the registrar are involved in firearms seizures.
(k) The Canadian firearms registry on-line (CFRO) is a database that provides law enforcement with specific information on firearms, helps police evaluate potential threats to public safety and remove firearms from a location as a preventive measure. Law enforcement communities have consulted this system more than two million times since December 1, 1998. CFRO helps the police assess public safety threats and complete investigations.
(l) On December 3, 2002, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police re-affirmed its support for the firearms program and its essential crime-fighting tools. Law enforcement is clearly relying on the information contained in CFRO. Since December 1, 1998, it has queried this system over two million times in conducting police work. This shows that police officers are indeed accessing the database in order to forward their investigations.
(m) As part of the firearms program, there are now 1.9 million licensed firearm owners and over 5.9 million firearms have been registered. The vast majority of these are non-restricted firearms such as rifles and shotguns, which were difficult for authorities to trace under the old system because they were not registered.
The Canadian firearms program has taken many steps over the years to assure the quality of the information in its database on firearm owners and guns. The accuracy rate in the database today is over 90%, making this a most valuable tool for law enforcement. The Canadian firearms program requires sufficiently accurate information from clients to help make a determination on the eligibility for their licence and to classify and uniquely identify their firearm. This information includes information about the applicants, such as their address and type of safety training, as well as particulars of each firearm they intend to register.
Information on applications that does not properly identity or describe an individual or does not uniquely identify and classify a firearm is considered an error by the program. Such errors represent less than 1% of all data in the licence and registration data recorded in the Canadian firearms registration system. Any errors in the database are identified and addressed on an ongoing basis through quality assurance audits.
(n) This program is a national investment in public safety. Over the first seven years of operation (including the 2001-02 fiscal year) approximately $688 million has been spent on this program.
This program is much more than a firearms registry. With this investment come the public safety benefits of a licensing system that helps keep firearms from those who should not have them.
Since December 1, 1998, over 9,000 firearms licences have been refused or revoked by public safety officials. As a result of an enhanced screening process, there were 70 times more firearms licences revoked than the total for the previous five years under the old system. Since December 1, 1998, there are also checks on buyers, sellers, as well as gun tracing checks for every gun sale in the country.
It should also be noted that the Canadian firearms program yields significant savings for police services. As part of this program police are no longer burdened with the paperwork and administration involved in accepting firearms applications because these are now mailed to a processing site. This frees up significant police time and resources that can be redirected to investigations and policing.