Canada, Firearms Legislation, Suicide and Homicide. A Review of the Evidence
25 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2023
Date Written: March 27, 2023
This review examined the prior literature regarding suicide and homicide in Canada and gun control legislations Bill C-51, C-17 and C-68. An in-depth analysis was performed for each individual study and its weaknesses, strengths, and findings.
Conclusions regarding suicide are well-covered by a recent review by Langmann (2021). It appears that the most that can be concluded is that C-51 may have reduced suicide by firearms, but there is an observed substitution effect where males switched into other methods resulting in no overall decrease in total suicide rates. Drawing conclusions regarding females is difficult due to the poor methodology used, the low number of female suicides using firearms, and the multiple years where there are zero female suicides by firearm. However, there does not appear to be an effect.
Regarding homicide rates, studies that include other socioeconomic factors do not find an association with homicide rates in either total homicide rates by firearm or the male or female homicide rates.
Bill C-17 and C-68
Much stronger and more convincing evidence regarding suicide exists after the implementation of Bill C-17 and C-68. All studies overwhelmingly demonstrate a strong substitution effect where those attempting suicide switch from suicide by firearms to suicide by other methods, particularly hanging, leaving overall suicide rates constant and unaffected. This is well described in a review article by Langmann (2021).
Well-constructed studies demonstrate no associated effects between homicide and these legislative efforts, whether they discuss male or female or domestic or spousal homicide victims. Only one study finds a benefit with C-68, but it should not be relied upon to the same extent as those finding no impact. That study is critically flawed. It examines only a short period of time after the implementation of legislation, as well as only examining trends without immediate effects. The study contains inadequate controls.
Studies by Langmann
The four studies by Langmann agree with the other higher quality published literature. Langmann reports a substitution effect where suicide by firearms is replaced with suicide by other methods, resulting in no overall effect on suicide rates. High quality studies of firearms homicide also report similar results to those found by Langmann. Langmann’s studies do not deviate from the consensus of high quality Canadian literature.
Funding Information: No funding.
Conflict of Interests: No competing interests.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation