Are PAL holders murderers?

Are PAL holders a threat to public safety?Hunters and sport shooters are responsible citizens

Are firearms owners murderers as some claim?

Senator Pratte misinterpreted Statistics Canada data in his Senate address, when he introduced Bill C-71 in the Senate.

“According to data provided by Statistics Canada, over the last 10 years, no fewer than 169 gun homicides were committed by licensed firearm owners.”

This is incorrect.

This misquote exaggerates the number of licenced firearms owners who are murderers. Statistics Canada reported the number of PAL holders who were suspects, not the number of convicted murderers.

Senator Pratte’s data had an average of 3 suspects per victim which is abnormally high. On average (1974-2016) the number of convicted murderers is about the same as the number of homicide victims. Of course, many suspects will never be accused, nor convicted. The police, being practical, cast a wide net of suspects.

Although, Senator Pratte’s follow-up statements are unfortunately true.

“This is far fewer than the number of homicides committed by unlicensed shooters, but it is not an insignificant number. It is not only lifelong criminals who shoot to kill.”

 

Do PAL holders threaten public safety?

Back in In 2012, I testified to the Senate that the rate of firearms homicide by licensed individuals (analysing data from 1997 to 2010) was 0.60 per 100,000 compared to an average national homicide rate of 1.85 per 100,000. Thus, I argued that, while licensed individuals do use their firearms to kill, they are 1/3 less likely to commit murder than an average Canadian.

The rate for a more recent time period (2005 – 2016) remains about the same, if slightly higher, at 0.67 per 100,000 PAL holders. This rate remains much lower than the general homicide rate for the entire Canadian population, 1.69 per 100,000 population.

Two countervailing problems with this comparison need to be mentioned. First, since Statistics Canada doesn’t ask accused murderers about firearms licence status if a firearm isn’t present, this homicide rate is actually a firearms homicide rate, not a total homicide rate.

Second, the above comparison exaggerates the danger of licenced firearms owners because PAL holders are all adults and most of them are male, while the total Canadian population includes all ages (including children) and is 49% men and 51% women. Males have higher homicide rates than females, and adults have higher rates than do youth under 18. Are PAL holders more or less murderous than other Canadian adult males?

According to Canadian Firearms Program data, the population of licensed gun owners is 87% male and 13% female; all adults, as people under 18 years old cannot legally own a firearm even though they can obtain a youth license.

The average firearm homicide rate for the total Canadian population is 0.52 per 100,000 people (2006-2016), but when corrected for Canadians over the age of 18, the rate increases to 0.65 per 100,000. When it is further corrected, limiting it to males over age 18, the firearm homicide rate jumps to 1.33 per 100,000 Canadian males.

Summary

Now, compare that to the homicide rate for licenced firearms owners, which is just 0.67 per 100,000 PAL holders. This rate is slightly higher than what I’d calculated back in 2012 because the time period is 2005 – 2016, rather than 1997 to 2010.

Firearm homicide rate

PAL holders                         0.67

Adult males                          1.33

Clearly, after the corrections, PAL holders are less violent than the comparable population of adult males.

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