Wednesday November 08, 2017

Canada has a gun problem, says firearms author

Compared to Europe, Canada would rank fourth in terms of gun homicide rates, according to Iain Overton,  author of The Way of the Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of Firearms.

Compared to Europe, Canada would rank fourth in terms of gun homicide rates, according to Iain Overton, author of The Way of the Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of Firearms. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Listen 19:39

Read Story Transcript

Not in Canada. That's the perception for many who may consider gun violence as America's problem.

"I don't think Canada should feel smug," Iain Overton told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Yes, when it comes to gun homicides, this country has lower numbers when compared to its southern neighbour, said the research director at the London, U.K.-based charity, Action on Armed Violence.

Between 2009 and 2013, the U.S. had more than 56,000 gun homicides while Canada had just over 800 firearm murders, according to Overton.

'Between 2003 and 2012, over 5,500 Canadians shot and killed themselves. And this I think is something that really is lacking in the Canadian debate.' - Iain Overton

But if Canada was placed in the perspective of Europe as part of the 31 countries that make up the wider European region, Canada would actually rank fourth in terms of gun homicide rates, said Overton, who authored The Way of the Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of Firearms.

"In terms of sheer numbers, only France, Germany and Italy have more gun deaths per year."

amnesty guns

"In terms of sheer numbers, only France, Germany and Italy have more gun deaths per year" when comparing Canada numbers vs. Europe, said Overton. (Belle Puri/CBC)

Firearms suicides 'lacking in the Canadian debate'

Overton called the number of firearm suicides "far more concerning."

"Canadian suicides are a dozen times more than gun suicides in England and Wales. Between 2003 and 2012, over 5,500 Canadians shot and killed themselves. And this I think is something that really is lacking in the Canadian debate."

If you don't have a gun in the house then your risk of suicide will go down, according to Overton.

"The gun is meant to kill people … So the lethality of the gun is a massive factor in its effectiveness of ending a life."

Glug down some pills, and you might wake up getting a stomach pumped, said Overton. "But you'll survive. And what they found is that people who try to kill themselves — generally, if they survive, do not go on to kill themselves after that."

Ninety-nine per cent of people who put a gun on themselves will die from that gunshot, cited Overton.

pellet-gun

'We often think of BB guns or air guns as toys ... But actually they can cause harm. So they penetrate skin, they penetrate the eye, they penetrate bone. And so they can kill you,' said Dr. Natasha Saunders. (Shutterstock/Tomasz Majchrowicz)

When it comes to murders, Overton said research showed that handguns are usually involved, not hunting rifles, but "gun suicides and long guns — hunting rifles — are massively implicated."

Guns and young people

One child or youth a day is killed or injured by a firearm in Ontario, according a March 2017 study in the Canadian Medical  Association Journal.

The researchers examined data representing all children and youth up to 24 years of age living in Ontario between 2008 and 2012 and found an average of 355 firearm injuries occur every year.

'We often think of BB guns or air guns as toys ... But actually they can cause harm.' - Dr. Natasha Saunders

Dr. Natasha Saunders, the study's lead author and a pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, pointed to BB guns — popular among youth and children — as potentially dangerous.

"We often think of BB guns or air guns as toys. You can go to your local store and buy one. You don't need a licence. There's no training required for it. And they're much more easy to get," said Saunders.

"But actually they can cause harm. So they penetrate skin, they penetrate the eye, they penetrate bone. And so they can kill you."

Saunders said she was surprised by the numbers.

"We're overshadowed by what goes on in the U.S. We think of Canada as a relatively safe place, but we don't actually have data," she tells Tremonti. 

"A lot of the data we do have is around firearm fatalities and in children and youth ... That only makes up six per cent of injuries so it's really the tip of the iceberg when we look at fatalities."


The Current also spoke to writer Angela Wright, an anti-gun violence advocate.

Listen to the full conversation above.

This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino and Julian Uzielli.