By Letter to the Editor on June 17, 2020.
In all the recent debate about gun control, it strikes me that we have often been having the wrong conversation. The cause of the largest number of gun deaths in Canada and the U.S. by far is suicide.
Having a firearm handy makes suicide easier and less likely to be reconsidered, and almost certainly successful. Internationally, suicide rates are consistently higher where gun ownership is higher. Shorter-barrelled weapons are obviously more convenient for this: pistols, assault rifles or carbines, and combat shotguns (i.e. restricted weapons).
The second-largest cause of gun deaths is being shot by a family member or partner. In Canada this is most often a male killing a female partner, although in the U.S., home of the handbag pistol, things are rather more event. With the pandemic and our current economic woes, this will worsen as domestic abuse increases.
The third-largest cause is being shot by someone (a burglar, a home invader) who takes your own gun away from you. This makes legally purchased and owned guns the main cause of gun deaths. Don’t forget that robberies of gun stores are not unknown either – so it matters what they can stock.
Further, many or most mass shootings have involved legally obtained firearms. Add to that the criminal use of privately owned guns that have been stolen (trigger-guard locks and gun safes aren’t absolute protection). Criminal acts with smuggled guns are a source of horror, and must be seriously addressed, but are hardly the whole problem. The current federal government has started to beef up border security to help alleviate this; it is a pity the previous one cut border services so drastically.