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Why Canada’s gun death rate is seven times lower than the United States

Guns per capita Canada

Guns per capita Canada In the wake of Sunday’s carnage in Las Vegas, Nevada, the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in American history, in which at least 58 people were killed and over 500 others wounded, many are once again pointing to lax gun laws in the United States as a central contributor to the country’s recurring theme of mass shootings and murders. Why is Canada’s gun death rate lower?

A mass shooting earlier this year at a mosque in Quebec City reminded us in Canada that we are not immune to such horrors. But how much safer are we up North? And how do Canadian gun culture and gun laws stack up to American ones?

All things are relative, it turns out, since in comparison to the US, we look pretty good, yet on the world stage, Canada still has far to go in terms of gun control.

First, the numbers. Studies show that the more guns in a country per capita, the higher the number of mass shootings that incur. Canada has about ten million firearms owned by civilians, which amounts to 31 guns per 100 people, whereas in the US, there are over 310 million firearms. That translates into almost one gun for every person, thirty times the number in Canada. US gun ownership is the highest in the world, whereas Canada ranks at 13th highest.

To own a gun, in Canada, you must be 18 years of age and obtain a firearms licence, which requires going through a screening process, a background check, completing a public safety course and observing a mandatory waiting period.

 

The high gun ownership is reflected in the number of deaths per year. In 2012, for example, the US had 8,813 firearm-related murders while Canada had 172, a rate that is seven times lower than that in the US.

In terms of legal frameworks, there are three categories of firearms under Canadian federal law. First, there are military-grade assault weapons which are prohibited for ownership, next, there are handguns which have a restricted use status and, third, there are non-restricted weapons like rifles and shotguns.

Guns per capita Canada

 

In the US, there are no laws banning semiautomatic assault weapons, military-grade rifles or weapons with large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Canada’s gun death rate is much lower. How much harder is it to get a gun here?

To own a gun, in Canada, you must be 18 years of age and obtain a firearms licence, which requires going through a screening process, a background check, completing a public safety course and observing a mandatory waiting period.

In the US, there are background checks for in-store purchases, which involve the store clerk making a call to the FBI to see if the person had previously been involved in a crime or been committed to a mental institution. But there are other ways to legally obtain a gun, such as purchasing one at a gun show or even through private sale with a neighbour or friend.

California, for example, has the country’s strictest gun laws, requiring gun owners to have a Firearms Safety Certificate, to submit to a waiting period and to buy only through licensed dealers. The situation is different in Nevada, however, which has some of the most relaxed gun laws. Not only can firearms be purchased without a permit, without a waiting period and even without registering the gun, owners are allowed to carry them in public spaces such as a casino on the Las Vegas Strip and only require a permit for carrying concealed weapons.

 

guns per capita canada vs us

The differences appear stark, but Canada still has a long way to go in protecting its citizens from gun violence, say gun-control advocates. “If Canada were included as part of the 31 countries that make up the wider European region, it would rank fourth in terms of gun-homicide rates,” says Iain Overton, director of investigations at the London-based charity Action on Armed Violence, to the Globe and Mail.

And although compared to our neighbours to the south, our gun culture and laws look pretty good, there really is a gun problem in Canada, says Overton, and it’s about gun suicides, which claim the lives of more than 500 citizens a year. That rate puts Canada only behind the US, Uruguay and Argentina among 35 countries in the Americas when it comes to gun suicides per capita.

“This is Canada’s real gun problem,” says Overton. “Between 2003 and 2012, at least 5,616 people were reported to have shot and killed themselves. It’s a shocking firearm suicide rate, more than 12 times that of England and Wales.”

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About The Author /

Jayson MacLean
Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.

Comment

  1. ““This is Canada’s real gun problem,” says Overton. “Between 2003 and 2012, at least 5,616 people were reported to have shot and killed themselves.”

    i. That’s not a gun problem, that’s a suicide problem.

    ii. I know that it is just a coincidence, but the point that that misdirection originated with someone named “Overton” is hilarious in a grim sort of way.

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