Firearm-related deaths are a significant public health problem in Canada. Over the past 30 years, the Canadian Parliament has implemented a number of measures to alleviate this problem. Most of these measures focus on the control of non-restricted firearms such as rifles and shotguns. These measures were implemented gradually following the adoption of three bills, i.e. Bill C-51 (in 1977), Bill C-17 (in 1991), and Bill C-68 (in 1995). Since 1998, following the adoption of Bill C-68, all owners of non-restricted firearms have been required to hold a licence to possess firearms and to register each firearm that they own.
In recent years, several bills have been tabled with a view to eliminating the compulsory registration of non-restricted firearms. The most recent proposal is Bill C-391, the Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (Government of Canada, 2009). More specifically, Bill C-391 proposes to eliminate the obligation for individuals and businesses to register the non-restricted firearms, such as rifles and shotguns, that they own. The bill will be put to a decisive vote following an analysis by members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The adoption of this bill would mean that non-restricted firearms are no longer included in the Canadian Firearms Registry. The licence to possess firearms would, however, still be compulsory, as well as the Firearm Safety Course.
This brief analyses the problem of firearm-related deaths from the standpoint of public health. This analysis focuses on: (1) the extent of firearm-related deaths in Canada; (2) access to firearms as a risk factor for death; (3) the impact of the measures implemented following the adoption of Bill C-68 on the number of firearm-related deaths; (4) the indissociable nature of the licence to possess firearms and the registration of non-restricted firearms; and (5) the acceptability of the operating cost of the non-restricted firearms registration system from the standpoint of prevention. The key observations stemming from this analysis are presented in the conclusion and in support of the Institut’s recommendations.