New study claims gun-control laws have no effect on Canadian murder rate

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

A new study that concludes gun-control laws have no evident effect on homicide rates is bound to provide ammunition for the Conservative government's plan to abolish the controversial long-gun registry.

Emergency medicine researcher Caillin Langmann's work, to be published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Interpersonal Violence, looked at the imposition of the registry in 1995, as well as previous reforms to the Gun Control Act.

"No significant beneficial associations between firearms legislation and homicide or spousal homicide rates were found," reads the abstract on the study by Langmann, a resident in the division of emergency medicine at McMaster University.

The National Post reported Langmann has been "a vocal foe" of gun-control measures. He argues gun violence should be fought through social programs that reduce economic disparity.

The former Liberal government set up the long-gun registry in the wake of the "Montreal Massacre," when Marc Lepine used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 14 female students at Ecole Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989.

The registry turned into a billion-dollar financial boondoggle and opposition MPs saw it as an attack on rural Canadians for whom firearms are part of their way of life.

Proponents argued long guns figure in a high proportion of murders and suicides, while police leaders said the registry is a key tool for officers responding to domestic-violence calls. However, many front-line police officers have been less supportive.

The Post noted Canada's firearms homicide rate has been dropping since the 1970s, with 200 gun deaths in 2008, that deaths with long guns are down by half and the percentage of women murdered has dropped 30 per cent in the last 15 years.

That coincides with the advent of the registry, but Langmann says it is due to Canada's aging, wealthier population. Older, well-off people apparently commit fewer homicides.

"If people are poorer and there's less income equality, those are more likely to be associated with an increase in homicides by firearm," said Langmann.

His analysis factored in delays in implementing new firearms laws, the effect of non-gun homicides and other variables he associated with criminality, such as unemployment, incarceration rates, income equality and immigration.

Langmann's research team used computer software designed to gauge the success of cancer intervention to analyze his data, as well as two other methods of statistical analysis.

All three "failed to definitively demonstrate an association between firearms legislation and homicide between 1974 and 2008," Langmann found.

Not surprisingly, gun-control advocates begged to differ.

"We have the same numbers . . . and we've found the opposite," Amelie Baillargeon, communications co-ordinator for the Coalition for Gun Control, told the Post.

A study by the Universite de Montreal published last January looked at homicide rates since 1974, also factoring external influences, and found gun laws were responsible for five to 10 per cent drops in firearm killings.

Langmann's study does not include suicide, which accounts for three-quarters of gun deaths. A Quebec study found a significant drop in male suicides following the introduction of gun laws.

It's unlikely Langmann's study will change any minds in this sharply divisive debate.

"A study by a guy who's opposed to gun legislation found that gun legislation is ineffective? Suprising (sic)." commented CommonSenseMan. "Sorry, but if you're not a police officer you don't bneed (sic) a gun."

"Be clear," said watchdoghugh. "We do not want to be like that gun crazed, weapons exporting, violence exporting neighbour to our South."

(CP Photo)