The issues related to access to firearms go well beyond the use of these weapons in criminal activities. Access to firearms is an important risk factor for suicide, homicide, particularly spousal homicide, and accidental death.
Most firearm-related deaths are not linked to criminal activities and involve long guns
- Between 2009 and 2013, an average of 127 people died in Québec annually due to firearm-related suicide. This is 5 times the number of victims of firearm-related homicide.
- Suicide is the leading cause of firearm-related deaths in Québec. In most cases, the suicides are committed in the victim’s home using a long gun.
- Most victims of firearm-related deaths are male, except in intrafamilial homicides.
- Firearm-related deaths occur throughout Québec, but the risk of firearm-related suicide is higher in rural areas than in urban or peri-urban ones.
The scientific literature shows that the presence of firearms in the home is a risk factor for death
- The presence of a firearm in the home is associated with an increase in the risk of suicide, homicide and accidental death among the members of the household.
- A large proportion of suicide attempts are not planned long in advance. In half of cases, the suicidal crisis is short-lived, i.e., less than 10 minutes.
- Access to firearms is a “facilitating” factor for suicide. The mere presence of a firearm in the home significantly increases the risk of suicide. Firearms are the most lethal method used in suicide attempts.
- The presence of a firearm in the home increases the risk of spousal homicide, as well as the severity and lethality of the spousal violence involved.
Controlling access to firearms in the home protects people and prevents deaths
- Most firearm-related deaths occur in the home. Making homes safe by controlling access to firearms can prevent such deaths.
- Safe storage practices make firearms less accessible to individuals likely to misuse them.
- Preventing suicidal individuals from gaining access to a firearm during a suicidal crisis gives them an opportunity to get help once the crisis is over.
- Controlling access to firearms in situations involving spousal violence can prevent spousal homicides.
Legislation in the area of firearms control: effective measures
- Legislation that includes several control measures is effective in preventing firearm-related suicides and homicides. Canada’s legislation falls into this category.
- Bill C-68, which introduced, among other things, the requirement for all firearm owners to hold a licence and to register non-restricted firearms, reduced the number of suicides and homicides in Canada.
- Between 1998 and 2012, Bill C-68 prevented an average of 72 firearm-related suicides per year In Québec, with no substitution effect.
The firearms possession and acquisition licence and the registration of non-restricted firearms: two necessary and complementary measures
- Requiring that all firearm owners hold a possession and acquisition licence and that they register non-restricted firearms are two necessary and complementary public safety measures.
- By making it possible to link each firearm to its owner, these two measures encourage owners to comply with the regulations in force and support the police in the performance of their duties to make life settings safe.
Bill 64: restoring the safety net
- Bill 64 reintroduces the requirement in Québec for all non-restricted firearms to be registered.
- The INSPQ is in favour of Bill 64 because it knows that most firearm-related deaths (suicides, intrafamilial homicides and accidental deaths) involve non-restricted firearms.
- The INSPQ recommends that the bill be amended to make it mandatory to verify a person’s firearms possession and acquisition licence when he or she takes possession of a firearm or files a firearm registration application.