In late November, the National Police Federation released its inaugural position statement on the current state of gun violence and public safety in Canada. which supports a fact-based approach to protecting and advancing public safety and gun violence prevention.
The NPF states that while "Canada has long prided itself as a non-violent, safe, and inclusive country," illegal guns and shootings have been on the rise, "resulting in loss of life and injuries for innocent Canadians, and decreased safety in many regions and communities."
For example, Canada reported 678 homicides in 2019, 38 per cent of which were gun-related fatal shootings. Homicides, including shootings, rose in Canada between 2013 and 2017. Notably, city centres, such as Toronto, have experienced dramatic increases in firearms-related homicides. Homicides linked to organized crime or gangs have also risen. In 2015, 16 per cent of homicide victims were linked to organized crime or gangs, and this number rose to its second highest rate (24 per cent) in 2019. Almost one in four total homicides were related to gang activity in 2019.
The 2020 "assault-weapon" ban does little to stop this, as handgun "have been the primary firearm used in gun-related homicides," in almost 60% of cases back in 2019. Given that we share a border with the "world's largest manufacturer of small arms," 2,242 illegal guns used in crimes here in Canada in 2019 have been traced back to manufacturers in the United States.
Given that the recent OIC does not focus on minimizing criminal activity, illegal firearms proliferation, gang crime, the illegal guns crossing the border or even the criminal use of firearms, the NPF has remained critical of the move, noting that it instead "diverts extremely important personnel, resources, and funding away from addressing the more immediate and growing threat of criminal use of illegal firearms."
Instead, the NPF has issued four specific demands in its call to action to reduce gun violence:
1) Legislation is needed that effectively addresses crime reduction, gang diversion, safe communities, secure borders, Canadian enforcement agency integration, and cross-border safety of the public and all police officers.
2) Funding is needed for the RCMP Border Integrity Program, to enable dedicated proactive RCMP investigative weapons enforcement activity and the dismantling of gang and organized crime firearms smuggling.
3) Funding is needed that enables law enforcement to properly address crime prevention rather than the ongoing monitoring of unrelated restrictions on licensed and regulated firearms owners.
4) Support is needed for evidence-based policy changes regarding licensing, mandatory safety training, safe storage, and a registry of civilian firearms that live up to Canada's high standard for legal firearm ownership.
These policies, "centered in law enforcement investigative strategies rather than measures that do very little to address their goal to increase public safety," will do well to minimize gun violence going into the future.