Most crimes that involve guns are paper crimes; just administrative violations, not violent crimes. There are no victims; no criminal intent; rarely any violence; just officious Canadian bureaucrats.
Let’s look at the numbers. But watch your language. Definitions are crucial. It might seem strange at first, but “gun crime” can mean nothing more than an administrative offence, and “firearms-related” crime does not necessarily mean a gun was used to commit the crime.
A good place to start is the detailed analysis in 2012 by Statistics Canada, Firearms and Violent Crime in Canada. In 2012, there were 12,320 administrative firearms violations in Canada (outside Quebec) compared with 5,575 “firearm-related” violent crimes; as well a firearm was used 1,325 times to injure one or more victims that year.
Clearly, administrative violations outnumber violent gun use matter how one defines gun crime (either “firearms related” crime or “used to injure” someone).
The total of administrative violations for Canada is somewhat higher than 12,320 because information from Quebec was excluded from this count due to Statistics Canada’s concerns over statistical irregularities in Quebec reports.
The 12,320 administrative firearms violations in Canada outnumber the 1,325 times firearms were used to injure someone. By a factor of at least 9 times in 2012.
Using 2012 percentages as a base, we can estimate the frequencies for gun crimes over a longer period. CanSim reports there were 8,143,958 violent crimes from 1998 through 2016.
Here are the estimates over this 19 year period:
Firearms-related violent crimes 1.35 % violent crimes 109,592
Firearms used to injure a victim 0.32% violent crimes 25,930
Administrative firearms charges 271,961
Included in the administrative firearms charges, according to CanSim, are 38,059 charges for “unsafe storage” or “Firearms documentation or administration” that were laid over the 19 years from 1998 through 2016. These charges were brought against 12,619 individuals who were then faced with up to 10 years in prison for “administrative violations” of Canadian firearms law.
The lion’s share of administrative charges consist of the 200,474 charges for “possession of weapons” brought against 113,201 individuals. Almost none (5%) of these charges involved violence.
Now let’s look at definitions:
Administrative firearms offences do not require criminal intent; just sloppy paperwork. No mens rea needs to be involved. (Mens rea is legalese for “guilty mind.”) Real crimes, ones that are inherently wrong by their nature (like murder or robbery), require that a perpetrator intend to commit the crime, are called malum in se.
To be charged of an administrative firearms offence, all that’s required is to miss a deadline for submitting paperwork. Forgetting to renew a PAL is enough to earn a criminal charge and up to 10 years in prison. Failure to submit a renewal request on time is a criminal act even if the firearm owner is in the hospital or out of the country. A gun owner can even be charged if the government loses the renewal application!
It is important to keep definitions clear. There are many more “firearms-related” crimes than there are crimes where a firearm is used to injure someone.
A firearm need not be used in a crime for Statistics Canada to considers a crime “firearms-related.” A crime is “firearms-related” if a firearm the “most serious weapon present” during the commission of the crime (or is later found at the scene). This means that any crime committed at the home of a hunter, target shooter, or gun collector, is automatically classified as “firearms related,” even if no firearm was directly involved in the crime. Even if your firearms are locked up in a basement safe, the arrest of a house guest for being drunk and disorderly could be classified as a “firearms-related” crime.
In 2012, Firearm-related violent crime accounted for 2% of all victims of violent crime in 2012.
The “Weapon causing injury” indicates the type of weapon used during the commission of a violent offence that caused a physical injury. in 2012, 1% of the weapons causing injury were firearms.