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Murders and suicides with firearms…

Note: The registration portion of the Firearms Act was implemented in 2001 and became mandatory in 2003.

I put this table together because of a Twitter conversation that was going back and forth about murder, suicides and firearms.

So here is a fact-based, empirical set of data on what went down between 2000 and 2007.

For me, the striking thing is the decrease of firearm related suicides. Quite remarkable.

I should mention that these data are publicly available and accessible at no cost.

What other conclusions do you draw from the data?


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  1. Although there is certainly a downward trend in the number of suicides, the variation each year absolutely does not lead to the conclusion that the gun registry is saving *ANY* lives. It certainly is having no obvious effect on criminal assault over that time period.

    When I look at those numbers, I am taken immediately by the decline in suicides over the time period by 0.7/100k. This amounts to about 6% right off the top. I notice also that the percentage of firearms suicides remains relatively constant across the entire time period.

    I conclude that the gun registry has done little, if anything, to reduce death by firearm in any of those areas including suicide. Indeed, I posit that we have had potential improvements quality of life and mental health care that have contributed to an overall lowering of suicide rates, which in turn lowers the suicide-by-firearm rate. Improving economic conditions from 2003-2007 would likely be a large contributor to improved mental health, lowering suicide rates. Compare to 2001, when the tech bubble had burst… increasing economic stress could have been a contributor to the slightly increased suicide rate that year.

    I also note that the 2007 figures for suicide by firearm seem to be anomalous compared to 2003-2006 when they held pretty steady. Since all five of those years were after the mandatory implementation of the gun registry, I suggest it would take further data to conclude that 2007 is representative of any kind of an improving trend. Given that the total number of suicides actually went up in 2007 over 2006, I suggest that a more reasonable conclusion is that people chose other methods of suicide by random chance. To conclude that the firearms registry is somehow responsible for the change is not supported by the data. While I cannot deny that it may have had an effect, it is unreasonable and inaccurate to suggest that its effect was significant when there are so many other factors that would also affect that number AND when the total effect is quite small in any case.

    My twitter comment that prompted this is that the report that the gun registry was some kind of boon to preventing suicides might be abusing statistics. I stand by that original claim. These data do not support the notion that the firearms registry has had a significant effect on firearms related deaths of any sort.

    However, all that said, let me put something else in perspective…

    The best case scenario is that the registry prevented the deaths of approximately 150 people between 2003 and 2007 based on those numbers up there. That’s if you attribute ALL the difference in deaths to the gun registry – really, really a stretch.

    In those 5 years, the gun registry cost what… $1.5 billion?

    I suggest that you could have saved 150 people from suicide over that time simply by walking up to them and handing them cheques for $4 million PLUS a coupon for $1 million in mental health care of their choice. It would have cost half as much and got the same job done.

  2. Uncommoner says:

    I did much the same research a while back for a rant about the Long Gun Registry.

    Something you didn’t mention, but if you look at the data over a longer period of time, homicides haven’t really decreased in the last decade or so but over a longer period of time the numbers do trend downwards. Might be worth doing some work collecting the data to see if the overal numbers and the murders/100,000 citizens have consistently been going down.

    One thing I do wonder about is the percentage of firearm homicides committed with illegally owned firearms versus ones that were legally acquired. What percentage of murders was committed by people without an FAC, for instance? What percentage was committed with handguns versus long guns?

    The data really doesn’t go deep enough to offer any real conclusions about the success of Gun Control, but that’s no reason to throw out the Long Gun Registry just because some people don’t like it. The police certainly seem to think that the Registry’s a useful tool, and so do the RCMP.

    1. The reason to throw out the long gun registry is not because some people don’t like it but simply because it costs a fortune and produces no obvious, verifiable results… even the best results that it *MIGHT* produce can be had for much lower outlay of taxpayer dollars.

      1. trashee says:

        Sorry. Been busy and haven’t had time to reply to some good comments.
        But one thing I need to point out is that the registry does not cost very much anymore. The op costs are very low. It was the set up costs that were the killer.
        I know why this was the case but can’t go into it here.

        1. The budget for the registry is about $65 million for this year alone.

          Again, the best possible scenario is that the registry has saved (adding in an estimate of the next 3 years not covered by those stats) 200 lives.

          $65 million / 200 = $325000 per life since the thing began, just out of this year’s budget, and not counting the setup costs. If you multiply that by the 10 years this has been running, it’s still over $500 million in operating costs, over $2.5 million per life saved and that’s the best possible view if you attribute the entire lowering to the registry.

          Half that money spent on improving mental health care and the other half spent on education would do way, way more good for Canada as a whole, and that doesn’t count the startup costs.

          There is no reasoned argument that can be made that the long gun registry is a cost-effective, or even “maybe not effective but doesn’t hurt” use of taxpayer dollars. It is a complete waste of money that by its existence hurts other programs that can do much more good.

          1. trashee says:

            The RCMP says that the annual cost is less than $4 million. Where does the $65 million come from?

  3. Ken says:

    A few things:

    – Firearm homicides is essentially unchanged; a 1% drop isn’t huge.
    – Actual numbers they’ve gone up.
    – 2007 suicides are at the same level as 2000.

    The fact that people are using guns less to off themselves tells me they’re just coming up with different ways.

    The conclusion I draw from all this is the registry has done a terrible job in preventing gun-related murders, but it’s done a great job in preventing gun-related suicides.

    Your stats tell me that for all the hullabaloo about the registry, it really hasn’t done anything to lower the usage of guns with regards to homicides.

    Which is what I thought was the whole purpose in the first place.

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