Liberal MP Damoff spreads lies by falsely suggesting that Canadian PAL holders are a threat to women, saying in a flyer: “Access to firearms by an intimate partner increases the likelihood of femicide by 500%.”
This claim can easily be shown to be false.
There is no evidence that women are in any danger living with a Canadian firearm owner. Methodologically sound research suggests just the opposite. Firearms owners are responsible citizens who are good parents.
First, Stats Can in a series of studies finds that firearms are rarely involved in domestic violence cases (under 1%). For the source of this statement, see Tables 2.3 and 3.3 in Juristat, Family Violence in Canada, 2019.
Second, spousal violence typically involves repeat offenders. See the bottom paragraph on page 23, Juristat, Family Violence in Canada, 2011.
Third, a large majority of offenders (65%) who murder their spouse or partner have criminal histories which would prohibit them from legally owning firearms. See page 33 Juristat, Family Violence in Canada, 2010. See also pages 23 and 24, in Juristat, Family Violence in Canada, 2017.
Fourth, Pursuant to the Firearms Act, offenders who commit spousal violence are prohibited from owning firearms. See question 16 a-f on page 2 of the Application for a Firearms Licence. To ensure that applicants are not spousal abusers, the applicant’s spouse [or partner] must co-sign the application and may be contacted by the RCMP. See page 3 of the Application for a Firearms Licence.
What is the source of MP Damoff’s bogus factoid?
This factoid can be traced to a pseudo-scientific paper in the American Journal of Public Health (July 2003, Vol 93, No. 7) by Professor Jacquelyn C. Campbell, et al., “Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From a Multisite Case Control Study.”
The study claims that their analysis found that: “For example, the 8-fold increase in intimate partner femicide risk associated with abusers’ access to firearms attenuated to a 5-fold increase when characteristics of the abuse were considered, including previous threats with a weapon on the part of the abuser.”
The study cannot logically support the factoid in MP Damoff’s campaign flyer.
1. The flyer mis-states the study’s findings;
2. The study’s research methods cannot logically support the author’s conclusions;
3. The study results cannot be generalized to either the United States or Canada.
This study fails both internal and external tests of validity. Internal validity refers to the research methodology being solid enough to support the study’s conclusions. External validity refers to the study participants being representative so that the results can be generalized to a target population.
1. The flyer mis-states the study’s findings by claiming a causal link between firearms and domestic violence. The study is a case-control study so that, logically, it cannot determine causality; the case-study design can only generate hypotheses. (See Chapter 2 in Targeting Guns (1997) by Gary Kleck.)
2. The study’s research methods cannot logically support the author’s conclusions. The study fails internal validity because the study’s conclusion that access to firearms increases the likelihood of spousal murder does not logically follow from the research methods used in the study. The results are more circumscribed. The study does find that spousal abusers are more likely to kill their spouse with a firearm if they have access to one, and that abused women who have access to a firearm are less likely to be murdered.
The goal of this study was to identify ‘risk factors’ that distinguish between the case and the control conditions. In other words, any differences between the two groups may be considered “risk factors.” The operative word is “may.” Differences may not be risk factors. To the extent that the “control group” is basically equivalent to the “case” group, it is possible to draw inferences from their differences about possible risk factors.
The study compares police or medical records for 220 intimate-partner female homicide victims with the interviews of 343 abused women in 11 American cities who have been chosen to act as controls. All study participants were abused women.
But in this study, the two groups differ so widely in terms of basic demographics, (e.g., ethnicity), it is difficult to claim that differences indicate plausible ‘risk factors.’ In any case, proper scientific procedure would encourage further investigation of differences between control and case groups, not, as the author does, assert conclusions about causality, albeit masked by using the phrase, “associated with.”
There are crucial differences between the “control group” and the “case” group. One such difference is that the case group (the murdered women) is twice as likely as the women in the control group to be black, as are the men who murder their female partners. The author claims without providing evidence that this has no bearing on the results.
The racial differences in the control and case groups potentially undermine the analysis. The results may be heavily reliant upon the differences in the proportion of blacks in the control and case conditions. The key risk factors found were unemployment and substance abuse. Firearms ownership was only found to be a factor in spousal murders after these more powerful factors were controlled.
The study fails external validity because the results cannot be generalized to a larger population, neither the United States nor Canada. Respondents were abused women who were disproportionately black Americans.
The women in the study were not representative residents of these cities, nor are these cities representative of the US, and certainly not Canada. No women came from small towns. Nor did this study determine if the firearms were legally possessed. Because it is based on a non-representative sample, the study cannot be generalized to Canadian or American populations of women, abused women, nor to legal firearms owners in either country.
MP Damoff is not the only Liberal to repeat this bogus factoid. Back in April Public Safety Minister Blair falsely claimed that “[women} were even more likely to be the victim in the 660 IPV incidents where a firearm was present.”
What a stretch! Not only is the claim about firearms owners false, but that’s 660 out of 107,000 incidents of Intimate-Partner Violence, less than 1% of all IPV incidents reported.
Perhaps the government should be concerned about the other 99% of victims of IPV.
Hat tip, RangeBob