The risk of death by gunshot has been cut in half in Canada and is far smaller than in the United States, Statistics Canada says.
In a study issued on Monday, the federal agency notes that Canadian gun-control laws have been stiffened in recent decades and gun registration has been made compulsory, but it draws no conclusions about the cause of the falling death toll.
It says that 816 people — 767 males and 49 females — died of firearms-related injuries in Canada in 2002, the most recent year examined in the study. This represented 2.6 deaths per 100,000 population, down from 5.9 per 100,000 in 1979, it said.
Among males, the 2002 rate was 4.9 deaths per 100,000, down from 10.6 in 1979. Among females, it was 0.3, down from 1.2.
In a cross-border comparison for the year 2000, Statistics Canada says the risk of firearms death was more than three times as great for American males as for Canadian males and seven times as great for American females as for Canadian females.
Because more of the U.S. deaths were homicides (as opposed to suicides or accidental deaths), the U.S. rate of gun homicide was nearly eight times Canada's, the agency says. Homicides accounted for 38 per cent of deaths involving guns in the United States and 18 per cent in Canada.
But even as Canada's rate of gun homicide shrank (to 0.4 per 100,000 population in 2002 from 0.8 in 1979), handguns moved into a dominant role. Handguns accounted for two-thirds of gun homicides in 2002, up from about half in the 1990s, the agency says.
Consistently through the period, about four-fifths of Canadian firearms deaths were suicides, it says.