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Handguns used in most firearm-related violent crime in Canada

By Michael Lee

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    TORONTO (CTV Network) — After falling for several years, rates of firearm-related violent crime are on the rise in Canada, the majority of which involve handguns, a recent report from Statistics Canada shows.

Released on Friday, the report compares instances of firearm-related violent crime in two periods ranging from 2009 to 2014, and 2015 to 2020.

The report shows that the rate of firearm-related violent crime in 2009 stood at 29 per 100,000 people. This number dropped to 19 in 2013 as violent crime also fell overall, before returning to 29 in 2020.

In 2020, police reported 8,344 victims of a crime where a firearm was present, representing 2.8 per cent of all victims of violent crime in Canada that year.

Handguns remain the most serious weapon used in the majority of firearm-related violent crimes in Canada at 59 per cent.

This was the case for both periods analyzed by StatCan, which the federal agency said means handguns are not disproportionately contributing to the overall growth in firearm-related crime.

What has changed, however, is the type of firearm-related violent crimes that police are reporting, namely discharging a firearm with intent, pointing a firearm and use of a firearm in an indictable offence, the report says.

The number of victims of these offences increased from eight per cent of all firearm-related violent crimes in 2009 to 21 per cent in 2019 and 22 per cent in 2020.

The report comes following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last week, which resulted in the deaths of 19 children and two teachers. The federal government also plans to table new firearms legislation on Monday.

It remains to be seen exactly what will be in the bill, but a number of gun-control measures promised by the Liberals remain outstanding, including the federal government’s program to buy back banned firearms. GAPS IN DATA

Despite the figures, StatCan stresses that there are gaps in its reporting.

“It is important to recognize that there are limitations in our knowledge about firearms used in crime,” the report says.

One of these gaps is the limited information collected on the details of particular firearms, such as their exact type, who owned it, how it was stored or whether the owner is licensed, the agency says.

There also is no consistent definition of a shooting among police services in Canada, nor is there consistent criteria to determine whether a shooting actually occurred.

As well, there are gaps in the nature of firearm-related violence in Canada, including the extent to which organized crime is involved, and whether there are any patterns in ethnicity, Indigenous identity except in the case of homicide data, and socioeconomic factors involved.

Provinces also do not require investigators to send guns used in crime for tracing, although even this process has varying success rates, StatCan says.

“Of particular concern, there is currently little information available to determine the source of firearms used in crime: for example, whether a gun used in a crime was stolen, illegally purchased or smuggled into the country,” the report says.

“This information is sometimes not recorded by police services, recorded inconsistently or, in some cases, the information is simply not available.” HANDGUNS

The majority of firearm-related violent crime in 2020 was robbery, at 29 per cent, or major assault, at 23 per cent.

Handguns were more commonly used in urban areas, where they made up 63 per cent of firearm-related violent crime in 2020.

Rifles and shotguns, meanwhile, tend to be more commonly used in rural areas, including 46 per cent in the rural south and 39 per cent in the rural north.

In 2020, handguns accounted for 75 per cent of all firearm-related robberies. Handguns were also involved in 60 per cent of homicides, other violations causing death and attempted murder involving a firearm, as well as 54 per cent of firearm-related sexual offences.

Firearm-like weapons such as a pellet gun or flare gun accounted for 23 per cent of all firearm-related violent crime in Canada in 2020.

Police reported 743 homicide victims in Canada in 2020 for a rate of 1.95 per 100,000 people.

Of those, 277 cases involved a firearm for a rate of 0.73 homicides per 100,000 people.

The proportion of homicides involving a firearm rose from 26 per cent in 2013 to 37 per cent in 2020.

Gang activity was confirmed or suspected in 39 per cent of all firearm-related homicides in 2020. Overall, gang-related homicides involving a firearm dropped from 20 per cent of all homicides in 2019 to 14 per cent in 2020. CITIES WITH THE HIGHEST RATES

The cities with the highest proportions of violent crime where a firearm was present in 2020 were Regina, Brantford, Ont., Toronto, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Windsor, Ont.

While Toronto reported a relatively low rate of firearm-related violent crime, StatCan says it still accounted for a relatively high proportion of all violent crime.

How police report victim information will also affect the results. StatCan says the Toronto Police Service, for example, made improvements to its reporting system, which partly explains the increase seen in the city in 2015.

Rates of firearm-related violent crime in 2020 were higher in rural areas than urban centres in most provinces, which StatCan said might be due to higher rates of firearm ownership in rural communities, where it may be required for hunting or farming.

The 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia, in which 22 people were killed, also had an effect on the homicide rate in the province and nationally. VICTIMS AND PERPETRATORS

Males accounted for two-thirds of all victims of firearm-related violent crime in 2020.

Most male victims of firearm-related violent crime do not know the perpetrator, at 55 per cent, compared to 41 per cent of female victims.

This is largely the case in urban areas, with victims in rural communities more likely to report knowing the perpetrator.

Among female victims of firearm-related violent crime, a current or former spouse, or other intimate partner, was responsible for one-in-four cases, compared to 2.2 per cent of cases involving male victims.

The majority of firearm-related violent crimes involving a victim are solved, with at least one accused person identified. This is more likely the case in the rural north and south, at 83 and 72 per cent, respectively, compared to 54 per cent in urban areas.

In 2020, 5,955 people were accused of firearm-related crimes. Of those, 87 per cent were male.

Rates of firearm-related violent crime are highest among young men between 18 and 24 years old, with 110 accused per 100,000 people, and those aged 12 to 17, with 75 per 100,000 people.

With files from Online Politics Producer Rachel Aiello

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.

Sonja Puzic

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

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