The truth about gun ownership and domestic violence in Canada
In recent years the media has focused on connecting domestic violence cases with firearms ownership in Canada. At the same time, there have been numerous campaigns across Canada supporting the safety of gun ownership. Given the wealth of contradictory information Canadians are faced with, many are left wondering, what is the truth? Is there a connection between domestic violence and legal gun ownership in Canada? Based on the attention this issue gathers, many would say there must be.
A 2016 Statistic Canada report on Family Violence can help provide the answers by giving Canadian the facts they need to know. Every year, Statistic Canada publishes a report on Family Violence in Canada that provides information from Canadian police departments as well as self-reported incidences . This year, the report provides updated statistics for 2014 as well as an analysis on Canadian spousal violence from the last decade.
According to the report, 4% of Canadians reported physical or sexual abuse by their spouse during the last five years. Of that 4%, the split between genders was almost equal, with more men experiencing spousal violence than women, representing 55% of the abused population while women represented 45%.
Of the 4% of Canadians experiencing violence, less than 1% (0.7%) of incidences reported that a firearm was present between intimate partners. In fact, firearms were only present in 0.5% of overall cases.
Does this mean that firearms were used in a threatening way in 0.5% of all spousal violence cases? No, it does not. A firearm does not have to be involved in the incident for the police to report it as “firearms present.” If a firearm can be located on the premises during the violent incident, whether or not it was securely locked in a safe, the incident would be considered involving a firearm.
So if firearms don’t seem to be culprit behind most domestic violence incidences in Canada, what is?
The most common type of spousal violence reported was being pushed, grabbed, shoved or slapped. For women , most reports of violence were the least serious form of assault that include pushing, slapping, punching, verbal threats and criminal harassment, otherwise known as stalking. However, for men, most cases of violence came from major or common assaults which include assault with a weapon, causing bodily harm, using or threatening to use a weapon, aggravated assaults, pointing a firearm, discharging a firearm with intent, and criminal negligence among other assaults.
The good news is that the overall trend in Canada has seen a decline in the past decade, with the number of women and men reported being victims of spousal violence across both sexes falling from 7% in 2004 to 4% in 2014.
The facts speak for themselves. The truth is, in Canada, there is no link between firearms and domestic violence. As a nation we need to recognize that fact so that we can move on and get to the real root cause of domestic violence and focus on helping those in need of support and care. Firearms are not the problem nor are the 2.4 million legal firearm owners in Canada that possess them. To imply that they are, is simply ignoring the facts.
As responsible community members we all need to join in the fight against domestic violence.
Statscan report on firearm violence: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2014001/article/11925-eng.pdf
Statscan report on family violence 2014: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2016001/article/14303-eng.pdf
Statscan report on family violence 2010, has some firearm numbers: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11643-eng.pdf