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When we think of gun violence, we often dismiss it as an American problem. We might discuss it, but it always comes down to the U.S. needing better gun control and thank goodness we live in Canada. Well, it looks like Canada may not be the safe haven we think it is. Yes, our gun crime is significantly lower than the States and there are far fewer guns in the country in general, but gun crime in Canada is on the rise and we need to talk about it.

Between 2009 and 2013, there were over 56,000 gun homicides in the United States compared to 977 in Canada. That’s a huge margin, but Canada doesn’t measure up as well to its European peers. Compared to the rest of the world, Canada has the fourth-highest gun homicide rate, behind France, Germany and Italy. That’s not as good.

Even more concerning is the recent spike in gun violence in cities across Canada. The Zero Gun Violence Movement studied specific cities including Surrey, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax and found some shocking numbers. In Regina for example, there was a 93 per cent increase in violent offences involving guns on average over the past five years. Between 2015 and 2016, there was a 163 per cent increase in victims of firearm offences. That’s a huge increase over just one year.

According to Angela Wright with Zero Gun Violence, most of these offences–which include not just homicide, but any kind of gun violence–are committed with illegal guns. It is most common for a gun to be purchased through legal means, then be sold illegally or smuggled into Canada via the United States. Wright warns that border services need to be on a better look out for those coming into the county. Watch an episode of Border Security and you’ll see just how difficult that can be.

Wright says that the best way to combat gun violence in Canada is for the federal and provincial governments to support municipal programs. A lot of gun violence is committed by repeat offenders who have no prospects after being incarcerated. When a person has been arrested at a young age and has a criminal record, it is almost impossible for them to get a job, which leads them right back into a life of crime. The pressure is on local governments to provide education programs, job training and community support for the victims of the criminal justice system to help them break that cycle. These local governments are going to need federal and provincial support to provide their citizens with what they need.

Thankfully we live in a country that has relatively secure gun control. Our gun violence issues are different from those in the United States, but we still need to address them. Lower gun violence is good, zero gun violence is far better.

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