(Published in the National Post on August 23, 2018)
As the Minister who presented Bill C-71 in the House of Commons, I believe it’s important to respond to a column about firearms written by Gary Mauser and Vincent Harinam, dated August 17th, 2018. They question why the Government of Canada is using statistics beginning in 2013 to demonstrate increasing gun violence in Canada.
They do not quibble with the statistics themselves which, indeed, show that negative trend – just the timeframe.
So why did we use 2013 as the first year for our statistical analysis? For the simple reason that that was the pivot year after which the negative trend emerged.
For context, we have repeatedly made the point that crime rates generally in Canada have been improving over several decades. But starting from 2013, the statistics specifically on gun violence began moving in the wrong direction. That’s the point.
According to Statistics Canada, between 2013 and 2016, criminal incidents involving firearms increased by close to one-third. Additional numbers are now available for 2017, showing a further deterioration. The increase since 2013 has climbed to 44%.
The argument from Messrs. Maurer and Harinam seems to be that these gun violence numbers have not been getting bad enough fast enough to justify legislative action. One might ask, what then is their recommended threshold? If an increase of 44% isn’t sufficient, in their view, what percentage (if any) would be?
They went on to emphasize the issue of gang violence, but failed to mention that the government will, in fact, be investing $327 million over the coming five years, rising to $100 million per year on-going, to help combat gangs. This will strengthen anti-smuggling capabilities at the border, increase police efforts to combat trafficking, support provincial work in disrupting gangs, and help local initiatives to prevent recruitment.
In addition, through Bill C-71, we are increasing the effectiveness of background checks on concerns such as mental health issues and gender-based violence, improving license verification procedures, standardizing good business practices for record-keeping, enhancing the safe transportation of restricted and prohibited firearms, and taking political considerations out of the classification system.
Groups like the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are very supportive of our package – to promote public safety and assist police investigations while being fair to law-abiding firearms owners.
Canada’s Minister of Public Safety