Gun Violence Stats in Canada
Compared to our neighbors to the south, who appear to be regularly reeling from an onslaught of recent gun violence, Canada’s gun violence statistics appear tame. Yet it’s notable that even in this friendly and community-focused country, gun violence has been trending upward since it hit a low of 134 in 2014 to a high of 277 in 2020.
Unlike the government in the United States, which appears paralyzed, unwilling, or unable to act when shootings occur, the Government of Canada has taken the issue of gun violence seriously. For example, in Canada, after the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in 1989 when 14 women engineering students were killed, the government instated robust background checks combined with mandatory training (over a three-day course) before one can obtain a gun license. In addition, penalties were increased for some gun crimes.
More people have been losing their license or are unable to get one to over 4,000 in 2019. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as mental health concerns, court orders, lying on the application, problematic behavior, or indications they may be a threat to themselves or others. Instructors at training facilities are tasked with observing students and making note of any concerns for those seeking to own a gun.
There’s also a 28-day waiting period before someone can take possession of a purchased firearm, which allows the government to perform criminal record checks, background checks, and reference checks, including interviewing family members. (In the U.S., there is no waiting period and a brief criminal background check, which may or may not look have access to background from others States or locations.)
In Canada, even after passing the training program, law enforcement officers run database checks daily to ensure gun owners have not engaged in criminal activities or to note life changes that may affect their fitness for owning a gun.
More recently, after another mass shooting in 2020, the Canadian government took additional steps to curb gun violence, including:
- Banning assault-style firearms, which are designed for military use and can easily kill or injure numerous people quickly. This ban removed more than 1,500 models of firearms and their components as well as types of highly destructive bullets from the market and from individuals through a gun buyback program.
- Strengthening gun control laws, prioritizing public safety and law enforcement while respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens.
- Targeting gang violence by investing resources in prevention, enforcement, and intelligence.
- Focusing in on illegal firearm smuggling and trafficking by securing the border to prevent criminals from access to illegal firearms.
- Encouraging citizens to secure their firearms safely and securely to prevent accidents and thefts that can lead to accidental or intentional violence.
- Cracking down on straw purchasing, which is when a person with a license to legally buy a gun resells the gun on the black market.
In March of 2022, Canada created a fund with C$250 million toward the effort of curbing gun violence, with a large portion devoted to stopping gun smuggling at the southern border (shared with the U.S.). This fund will also be used to tackle gun and gang violence in municipalities and indigenous communities.
The Canadian government is also launching a mandatory guy buyback program to remove previously allowed guns to promote greater community safety.
Gun Violence Stats
According to the Government of Canada, since 2009, violent offences involving guns in Canada have risen by a staggering 81%, and one in three homicides in Canada are firearm related. No wonder 47% of Canadians now believe that gun violence is a threat within their communities.
While this is an issue for every Canadian—in rural, urban, and suburban areas—certain groups are disproportionately affected by gun violence. These include:
- Girls and women
- LGBTQ2 people
- Young people, including children
- Lower income, including poor people and families
- Those living in more remote communities.
There are currently 34.7 firearms per 100 Canadian residents (compared to 120.5 firearms per 100 U.S. residents). In 2020, 45,222 people in the U.S. died by gunshot, either by homicide (19,384 people) or suicide (24,292), which was a 25% increase over the previous five years and a 43% increase from 2010. That number is equal to the death of nearly 53 people in the U.S. per day. Research has found higher gun ownership is strongly correlated with higher suicide rates for men and women.
When comparing internationally, in 2020, 37% of homicides were due to gun violence in Canada vs. 79% in the U.S., 13% in Australia, and just 4% in the UK. Compared to our closest neighbor, where nearly six in 100,000 residents were killed by a gun, shootings in Canada were responsible for .8 per 100,000. In other words, the U.S.’ rate for gun violence is eight times higher than Canada’s.
Still, gun-related homicides did increase to 277 in 2020 in Canada. That included its deadliest mass shooting when 22 people were killed with an assault-style rifle in Nova Scotia. Again, however, the government took immediate action, banning these types of weapons in the aftermath. In Canada, there is broad support for gun laws. Guns and gun ownership is also viewed differently in Canada than the U.S. There’s no “right” to own guns, and most people consider gun ownership a privilege.
While the gun philosophy in Canada is vastly different than in other countries in the Americas, which leads to safer Canadian residents, that doesn’t mean Canadians are immune to gun violence. There’s still work to do to help Canadians become safer and more secure. In addition to responsible and common-sense laws, investing in communities to ensure they’re well-policed and resourced, and protecting our borders may help prevent crime from occurring and help shield more people from violence in this amazing country.