StatsCan treats PAL holders as criminals in a recently released issue of Juristat, entitled, “Trends in firearms related crime, 2009 to 2020.” By ignoring the legal status of firearms involved in criminal violence, Statistics Canada implies that civilian gun owners are a threat to public safety — including licenced firearms owners (PAL holders). This is wrong headed. The problem is criminal violence, not gun ownership.
Given that StatsCan has the data about PAL holders, it remains difficult to understand why Statistics Canada refuses to point out that exceptionally few firearms used in homicide are legally held.
To Statistics Canada’s credit, they put firearm-related violent crime in context by stating that firearm-related violent crime represents a small proportion of police-reported violent crime in Canada, accounting for 2.8% (8,344 out of 476,649) of all victims of violent crime reported by police in 2020. According to Statistics Canada, a firearms-related crime is one where a firearm is “the ‘most serious weapon present,’ regardless of whether or not the weapon was used. This definition exaggerates the dangers of firearms crime, particularly in rural Canada where many homes have firearms. In such homes, firearms are often considered just another tool and are rarely considered a weapon.
Caveats. First, note that this report is based on police reported violent crimes and police reporting can and does change over time. For example, changes in reporting by the Toronto Police Service had dramatic increases in the numbers of victims of firearms crimes. Second, except for homicide, Quebec is excluded from firearm-related crime in this ‘national’ study.
Firearms-related violent crime is a mixed bag. It includes: homicide, physical assault, sexual assault, robbery, uttering threats, and firearm specific violent offences, such as pointing a firearm, discharging a firearm with intent, and use of a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence. In 2020, firearms-related crimes was primarily comprised of assault (28%), robbery (30%), firearms-specific violent offences (22%), homicide (7%), and sexual assault (1%). See Table 5 in Trends.
Note that ‘victims’ is definitional; few ‘victims’ actually sustain an injury.
StatsCan’s definition exaggerates the threat of firearms because few victims are injured in firearms-related violent crime. Just one-third (34%) of victims of firearms-related violent crime sustained an injury of any kind; although 9% sustained a major injury. Of those who were injured, the majority (71%) of injuries were caused by a firearm. Thus, less than one-quarter (.34 x .71 = 24%) of the victims of firearms-related violent crime were injured in any way by a firearm, from 2009-2020.
In 2020, police reported a total of 743 homicide victims in Canada. For 277 of these victims, a firearm was used to commit the homicide, StatsCan reports.
Curiously, in Firearm Trends Statistics Canada makes no mention that licenced firearms owners (PAL holders) are rarely involved in firearms homicide. According to my Special Request to Statistics Canada, almost all firearm homicides are committed with illegal weapons. In 2020, PAL holders constituted just 1.4% of all homicide accused, or 3.2% of firearm homicides. Moose are more dangerous than PAL holders.
Statistics Canada reports that the proportion of homicides that involved a firearm rose from 26% of all homicides in 2013 to 37% in 2020. Again, very few of these involved a PAL holder, although Statistics Canada ignores this.
StatsCan treats PAL holders as criminals. The upsurge in firearm homicides was driven by criminals, not PAL holders. The share involving PAL holders decreased, from 6% of those accused of firearm homicides in 2013 to just 3% in 2020, based on my Special Request to Statistics Canada.
Statistics Canada reports: Handguns were the most serious weapon present in the majority of firearm-related violent crimes between 2009 and 2020 (59%). Trudeau cited this statistic to justify ‘freezing’ lawfully owned firearms, even though almost all handgun homicides are committed with illegal weapons.
StatsCan treats PAL holders as criminals. In Firearm Trends, StatsCan does not mention that very few PAL holders have been accused of homicide with a handgun. Between 2010 and 2020, 7% of handgun homicides involved a PAL holder. The fraction, already small, fell from 10% in 2013 to just 3% in 2020, according to Table 4 in StatsCan’s presentation to SECU. Note that Table 4 is based on homicide victims, unlike my Special Request, which is based on the homicide accused.
Source: Table 4, Number and proportion of homicide victims of firearm-related homicides, by firearm licensing status of the identified charged / suspect-chargeable and firearm type, 2010-2020; “Brief: Police-reported statistics on firearm-related crime.” Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, Statistics Canada. Submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU). February 10, 2022.
In a subsequent blog I plan to extend my critique of this report by Statistics Canada by examining their seriously misleading analysis of firearm related crime in rural and urban and Intimate Partner Violence, or IPV.