Guns used in half of domestic homicides, researcher says

About half of all domestic homicides in New Brunswick involve firearms, according to a local researcher.
A New Brunswick woman who studies domestic homicide agrees with a recent recommendation for better gun controls being needed in known cases of domestic violence.

About half of all domestic homicides in New Brunswick involve firearms, according to a local researcher.

On Wednesday, the Office of the Chief Coroner released a report that looked at 32 domestic homicides in the province between 1999 and 2008.

It found 37.5 per cent of those deaths involved guns.

But Deborah Doherty contends the number is closer to 50 per cent, based on her own years of research for the New Brunswick Silent Witness Project, which honours the lives of women killed by their partners.

Doherty agrees with the report's call for better gun control in known cases of domestic violence.

She also believes police should be able to seize firearms as soon as there are any signs of violence.

"Where there's domestic violence and you see the other factors —which are often threats of suicide, and a history of controlling, abusive behaviour, and addictions — firearms should be confiscated," Doherty said.

"When they are called to a domestic situation, does it matter if it's about finances, or they're arguing over a burnt supper? Firearms should be confiscated at all times in all domestics."

RCMP Cpl. Chantal Farrah says police can intervene in dangerous situations.

"If we believe that leaving firearms in a house could pose a danger to someone then we will seize those firearms as a precautionary measure to maintain everybody's security," she said.

Each case is assessed individually, said Farrah.

More data on risk factors needed

Meanwhile, some people who work to stop domestic violence say they still have more questions than answers following the release of the coroner's report.

Sylvia Hale, a sociology professor at St. Thomas University, says the report does little to identify risk factors for potential cases of domestic violence.

"You need data like — was there any prior intervention for domestic violence with the perpetrator or victim? Were they separating or just separated? Were there mental health issues? Was social services involved? Like, what was the history leading up to this? And there's no data basically," she said.

Hale, whose friend and colleague John McKendy was one of the victims whose case was reviewed for the report, was hoping to read more on the history of the troubled relationships from the point of view of the families of the victims and the perpetrators.

"I think they'd be highly motivated to tell authorities what they needed, what they tried, what did and didn't work for them," she said. "I think you could learn a great deal by just surveying them."

The report does detail several ways to better collect data in cases of domestic violence.

It also recommends the provincial government continue with its Domestic Violence Death Review Committee.