Gun Control and Rates of Firearms Violence in Canada and the United States: A Comment

By Lester, David; Leenaars, Antoon A. | Canadian Journal of Criminology, October 1994 | Go to article overview

Gun Control and Rates of Firearms Violence in Canada and the United States: A Comment


Lester, David, Leenaars, Antoon A., Canadian Journal of Criminology


Writing in the Canadian Journal of Criminology, Mundt (1990, 32, January, 137-154) concluded that the Canadian legislation in 1977 regulating the acquisition of firearms had little perceptible impact on crime, suicides, and accidental deaths. Aside from several figures and charts, Mundt presented no statistical analyses to support this assertion. This comment attempts to demonstrate that his conclusion as far as suicide is concerned was wrong -- the firearms legislation did have an impact on suicide by firearms.

The suicide rate by firearms (see Table 1) in the eight years prior to the legislation (1969 to 1976) was increasing. For a simple linear regression, the unstandardized regression coefficient was 0.163 (p = .0003). Similarly, the suicide rate by all other methods was increasing (b = 0.097, p = .08), as were the total suicide rate (b = 0.261, p = .003) and the percentage of suicides using firearms (b = 0.608, p = .01).

For the eight-year period after the passage of the firearms legislation (1978 to 1985), the suicide rate by firearms decreased (b = -0.131, p = .04). Mundt suggested that, even if the suicide rate by firearms were to decrease, people might switch to other methods for suicide. This was not the case, since the suicide rate by all other methods did not change during this period (b = -0.019, p = .78) and neither did the total suicide rate (b = -0.150, p = .17). However, the percentage of suicides using firearms did decrease (b = -0.574, p = .03).

For interest, data for the period 1986 to 1991 are also included in Table 1, from which it can be seen that the reduction in the use of firearms for suicidal behaviour has persisted.

Table 1 Suicide rates by method in Canada, 1969 to 1991 (raw data

obtained from Statistics Canada; rates calculated by the present authors)

Year                 Suicide rate    % Suicides
       total   firearm   all other   by firearms
                         methods
1969   10.91    3.57      7.34           32.7
1970   11.33    3.74      7.59           33.0
1971   11.86    4.28      7.58           36.1
1972   12.19    4.29      7.90           35.2
1973   12.58    4.31      8.27           34.3
1974   12.98    4.57      8.41           35.2
1975   12.37    4.64      7.73           37.5
1976   12.76    4.76      8.00           37.3
1977   14.26    5.46      8.80           38.3
1978   14.80    5.48      9.32           37.0
1979   14.18    4.65      9.53           32.8
1980   14.03    4.68      9.35           33.4
1981   13.98    4.81      9.17           34.4
1982   14.30    4.88      9.42           34.1
1983   15.09    4.97      10.12          33.0
1984   13.69    4.19      9.50           30.6
1985   12.85    4.10      8.75           31.9
Subsequent Years
1986   14.50    4.69      9.81           32.3
1987   14.03    4.39      9.63           31.3
1988   13.55    4.12      9.42           30.4
1989   13.32    4.12      9.20           30.9
1990   12.71    3.96      8.75           31.2
1991   13.31    4.10      9.21           30.8

Thus, at least as far as suicide is concerned, the firearms legislation in Canada in 1977 was followed by a decreasing rate of suicide by firearms and a decreasing percentage of suicides using firearms without there being any increase in suicide by all other methods.

CURRENT RESEARCH

Title: Alternatives to incarceration

Auspices: University of Manitoba

Research Team: Principal Investigator: Burt Galaway

Financial Support: Ministry Secretariat, Solicitor General Canada

Commencement and Completion: November 1993 to May 1995

Reports and Publications: Final report for Summer of 1995

Abstract: As an alternative to incarceration, the John Howard Society (Manitoba) provides a Restorative Resolution Program. This program targets offenders who are likely to receive a significant sentence of imprisonment and provides supervision and services to them in the community.

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