Photo: Canadian Press
Doctors and other health care workers take part in a demonstration on the treatment of gunshot wounds in Montreal, Wednesday, April 3, 2019, pushing for stronger gun laws.
There has been a 37 percent increase in firearm-related homicides over the past 11 years and the handgun was the most commonly used weapon in such crimes, a report from Statistics Canada found, but cautions that big data in information collection There are gaps.
A report looking at gun crime trends in Canada between 2009 and 2020 was released on Friday.
It said the proportion of homicides where a firearm was used increased from 26 percent in 2013 to 37 percent in 2020. It said the handgun was the weapon of choice in 59 percent of firearms crimes.
“Firearms-related violent crime typically represents less than three percent of violent crime reported by police in Canada,” the report said.
“Nevertheless, it has significant emotional and physical effects on victims, families, and communities. Additionally, the past several years have seen a general increase in rates of firearm-related violence.”
It said that about six percent of gun crimes were related to gang violence.
“Although firearms are present in a minority of criminal incidents, firearm-related violent crime rates have been increasing in recent years.”
An earlier report by Statistics Canada stated that the use of guns in violent crime increased by 81 percent from 2009 to 2019.
A July 2021 report from the agency said there were 8,344 victims of violent crimes where guns were used.
However, the new report cautions that there are gaps in the data on where guns are used, including firearm types, ownership and storage.
“There is no consistent definition of shooting to be applied by police services in Canada, nor are there consistent criteria for assessing whether a shooting actually took place,” it said.
Of particular concern is that little information is currently available to determine the source of the firearms used in a crime: for example, whether the gun used in a crime was stolen, purchased illegally or was smuggled into the country. This information is sometimes not recorded by the police. Services, recorded inconsistently or, in some cases, information simply not available.”
This means that not all guns are available for tracing.
According to the report, about 75 percent of violent robberies involved handguns, and 60 percent of homicides, with other violations resulting in death and attempted murder. Handguns were also involved in 54 percent of sex crimes and 51 percent of firearm-specific violent crimes in 2020, the report said.
The report said that in 2020 there were 743 homicide victims, of which 277 were killed using guns.
There were 8,344 victims of gun-related crimes in the first year of the pandemic, which was unchanged compared to 2019, it said.
The gun crime rate in 2020 was highest in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the territories, it said.
The cities with the highest proportion of gun crimes were Regina, Brantford, Ont., Toronto, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Windsor, Ont.
“It is worth noting that while Toronto had a relatively low rate of firearms-related violent crime, these firearms-related crimes accounted for a relatively high proportion of all violent crimes,” the report said.
It has been said that gun crimes were higher in rural areas than in urban areas, which can be attributed to a number of reasons, including greater firearm ownership. Firearms are commonly used in hunting or farming and are around “when a crime is committed.”
The report said that about 63 percent of firearm victims in urban areas involved handguns. The rural north has seen a 33 percent increase in handgun crimes over the past six years.
“While rates of handgun-related crimes were generally higher in urban areas than in rural areas, the highest rate of handgun-related crime in Canada was reported in northern Saskatchewan, which is among all rural and Northwest regions,” Said it.
The Canadian Criminal Code classifies firearms into three categories: prohibited, restricted and non-restricted.
Prohibited firearms include automatic firearms, saw-off rifles and shotguns. Handguns are prohibited while rifles and shotguns, also known as long-guns, are generally non-restricted.
According to the law, a person is required to have a valid license to possess or possess arms and to purchase ammunition.
The federal government amended rules to ban more than 1,500 models of assault-style firearms, especially semi-automatic rifles, after the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting where a gunman driving a copycat police vehicle fired 22 killed people.
It said that 67 percent of the victims of gun violence are men, although women are more affected in rural areas. It said that most of the victims were between 18 and 24 years of age.
The report said the accused is often a stranger to firearms crimes, although this is rarely the case in rural areas.
“One in four women who were victims of a firearm-related violent crime in 2020 was victimized by a current or former spouse or other intimate partner, compared to two percent of men.”
The knowledge gaps identified in the report also include the extent of organized crime involvement, which it said is currently unclear.
“Patterns in ethnicity, indigenous identities – with the exception of homicide figures – and socioeconomic characteristics of victims and persons accused of firearm-related violence are also unknown.”
The agency said it is working with Canada’s Center for Justice and Community Safety Statistics to obtain uniform data across the country.
“It should be noted that it may take a few years for these changes to be fully implemented by police services in a way that allows the reporting of this information.”