Last week Dr. Caillin Langmann released his study, “Effect of firearms legislation on suicide and homicide in Canada from 1981 to 2016.”[i]
Dr. Langmann’s study confirmed what most gun owners already knew – that Canada’s gun laws don’t affect violent criminals or those intent on ending their own lives.
He focused on finding what effect, if any, Canada’s three major firearm legislative milestones had on homicide and suicide rates over the past 35 years. Those milestones are:
Bill C-17 (1991):
- two personal reference checks from people familiar with the applicant
- required spousal endorsement
- photo identification
- safety training involving written and practical testing
- psychological questionnaires
- a mandatory waiting period prior to obtaining a Firearm Acquisition Certificate (the precursor to today’s Possession and Acquisition Licence)
Bill C-68 (1995):
- two types of licences to replace the FAC – Possession-Only (POL) and Possession and Acquisition (PAL)
- added further screening of licensees
- license requirement to purchase ammunition
- authorization to transport restrictions
- harsher sentences for serious crimes involving firearms
Bill C-68 (2001) Firearm Owner Licencing Enacted:
- Sections 91 and 92 made simple possession of a firearm illegal. To legally possess a firearm, gun owners required a POL or PAL.
Langmann found these three legislative changes had no measurable effect on Canada’s homicide rate.
The reason – obvious to anyone willing to face a fact we’ve talked about for decades – is criminals intent on committing crime, violent or not, don’t care about obeying the law. Further restrictions on firearm ownership does not impact the criminal element of our society.
Data Confirms Substitution of Suicide Method
Langmann’s conclusions about suicide reiterate what many Canadians studying this issue have known for a long time – restricting or preventing access to firearms does not stop people from ending their own lives; it merely forces them to change the means used to do so.
This is called the “substitution effect”.
Langmann points out bullets and hanging are, for all practical purposes, identical in lethality. Those choosing a firearm to end their life are successful 83% of the time, while those choosing to hang themselves are successful 82% of the time.
While suicides by bullet have declined steadily for decades, suicides by hanging have risen steadily over the same time period.
Instead of directing our limited resources on suicide prevention, education and intervention, we’re obsessed with restricting one specific method a person may choose to end their life.
Statistics Canada data shows Canada’s overall suicide rate continues to rise, which means our national obsession with gun laws and confiscations, as a suicide prevention method, is likely wrong.
We must deal with the underlying issues responsible for a person choosing to end their own life (suicide) or that of another (homicide).
We must figure out how to prevent an individual from reaching this decision point in the first place.
Until we start focusing on mental health and helping the most susceptible and vulnerable in our society, chasing after the means used will not stop anyone from killing themselves or others.
This is the fundamental difference between the CSSA and activist groups who believe banning guns can stop murder and suicide. If we continue to focus on the object used instead of the person using it, we will never prevent anyone from killing themselves or others.
This distinction was highlighted by a recent comment from Hera Cook, Founder of Gun Control New Zealand.[ii]
“Gun control is not about goodies and baddies or gangs – it’s about controlling dangerous weapons. Good people can make really major mistakes, they can have breakdowns, all kinds of things can happen.”
Good people can indeed make major mistakes, but neither New Zealand’s mass murderer nor Canada’s Nova Scotia mass murderer fall into that category.
Both were evil men who committed atrocious acts of terror on their respective communities. The only difference is the New Zealand killer was enabled by New Zealand’s police – specifically their failure to perform the investigations required before approving and issuing a licence.
For Cook, however, these men (and others like them) aren’t the issue. For her, controlling the item they used to commit their heinous acts is the most important thing.
The people committing the atrocities are not to be held accountable for their actions, these groups appear to say, which is a fundamental flaw in their logic.
When we, society, abandon personal responsibility and personal accountability and instead blame guns for the crimes a person commits, we embark on a journey that can only end in failure.
[i] Langmann C (2020) Effect of firearms legislation on suicide and homicide in Canada from 1981 to 2016. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0234457. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234457