Why is the RCMP shuffling deck chairs, when the Titanic is sinking?
Handgun homicides have increased dramatically since the 1990s. Handgun homicides spiked in the early 1990s and have continued to increase ever since. There was a shocking 46% increase in handgun homicides between 1974 and 2015.
The increase in handgun homicides is due to a growing problem with criminal gangs. You can see the growth in Chart 5.
The jump in handgun homicides has been masked by the continuous slide in homicides involving long guns since 1974, falling by 79% over the 40-year period. Demography drives this decline, not gun laws.
Despite increasing gang murders, firearm homicides fell even faster than overall homicides since 1974. Firearm homicides have dropped from an average of 258 per year during the 1970s to 162 per year since 2010. That’s a 37% decrease. Pretty impressive!
It is important to put firearms violence in perspective: only a small proportion (2%) of police-reported violent crime involves firearms. About 17% of violent crime involved another type of weapon, such as a knife or blunt instrument. These proportions have remained consistent for almost a decade.
The Canadian homicide rate has plummeted from 2.8 per 100,000 population in the late 1970s to 1.6 per 100,000 since 2010; a 43% drop. This happened despite the slow decline in homicide victims since 1974. On average, there were 668 homicide victims each year in the 1970s (1974-1979); and just 557 victims per year since 2010.
That’s a 16% decrease in victims. Not quite as dramatic as a 43% plunge in homicide rates.
This impressive drop in homicide rate is almost entirely due to a huge increase in population: since the 1970s, Canada’s population ballooned by 57% — from 22.8 million in 1974 to 35.8 million in 2015. In comparison, the United States grew almost as fast, with a 50% increase in population (from 213.9 million in 1974 to 320.9 million in 2015). And their homicide rate fell even faster than Canada’s (50% vs. 43%).
At the same time, stabbing homicides doubled from 16% of all homicides in 1974 (93 victims) to 35% of homicides in 2015 (178 victims).
Here are a few factoids from Statistics Canada:
- In 2015, police reported 98 gang-related homicides, up 16 from the previous year. The rate increased by 18% to 0.27 per 100,000 population (from 0.23 in 2014).
- In 2012, three-quarters (75%) of gang-related homicides involving firearms were committed with the use of a handgun (See chart 9).
- In 2015, 44% of firearm-related homicides were also related to gang activity, which has long been the case.
- Previous research has found that the presence of firearms is a significant factor in the likelihood of a homicide remaining unsolved.
- In 2012, over three-quarters (78%) of unsolved firearm-related homicides were gang-related.
So why does the RCMP focus on peaceable firearms owners? Do they really believe tightening up regulations will stem gangland violence? Or perhaps they’re just trying to confuse the public who fear guns and who can’t tell criminals from sport shooters?