Do the facts support claims that simply having a firearm available can transform an angry encounter into murder, or a fit of depression into an impulsive suicide? In other words: do triggers pull fingers?
In this paper, I compare civilian firearms owners with criminals who misuse firearms. Statistics Canada collects much more data than they publish. In order to probe behind readily available statistics, I report on what I found in a number of Special Requests to Statistics Canada.
The results demonstrate stark differences between civilian firearms owners and those who commit violent crimes with firearms.
Law-abiding firearms owners are exemplary middle class Canadians: they are employed, tax-paying, law-abiding, contributing citizens. Demographically, civilian gun owners are solid citizens who contribute substantially to their communities. Historically, armed civilians have played crucial leadership roles in their communities, including protecting the country from attack.
Firearms misuse is typically gang-related. According to Statistics Canada, almost half (47%) of firearm homicides from 1974 to 2012 were gang-related. Lawful firearm owners are rarely involved.
Just 7% of the accused in firearms homicides had a valid firearms license. In fact, gun owners are much less likely to be murderous than are other Canadians.
Far from being normal, murderers are aberrant: over half (54%) of those accused of homicide have a previous criminal record, and approximately two-thirds (68%) of those have been convicted of a violent crime. In addition, 19% of accused murderers have mental disorders, and almost three quarters (72%) were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the murder.
According to police, the lion’s share of “crime guns” are smuggled. Guns are essential to the drug trade: drugs flow south in exchange for firearms coming north. As long as drug crime is profitable, criminals will actively bring in illegal firearms.
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