Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns Statement on Federal Assault Weapons Ban:A Good Day for Public Health, A Hopeful Day for Canada
Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG) is very pleased with the federal Liberal government’s decision to ban a large number of military-style assault weapons; policy that is supported by substantial scientific evidence from around the world. After many difficult weeks of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, and following the devastating mass shooting in Nova Scotia, today is a good day for public health and a hopeful day for Canada.
By banning the sale of guns previously used in mass shootings in Canada and commonly used in such events in the United States, the government is joining the ranks of countries that have responded with more than just thoughts and prayers after horrific tragedies, including New Zealand last year and Australia in 1996. In fact, in the 18 years before Australia enacted its 1997 assault weapons ban, there were 13 mass shootings resulting in 104 deaths and 52 injuries. From 1997 until June 2019 there were no mass fatal shootings. Even the United States, which had a similar ban in place from 1994-2004, witnessed a 25% reduction in mass shootings and 40% fewer fatalities.
Reducing the proliferation of guns is a particularly urgent issue right now, in a pandemic, and the government was prudent to act. Women’s groups, mental health experts, and anti-hate advocates have warned about the risks of isolation and economic uncertainty. There is clear medical research linking the presence of guns to heightened threats of femicide, suicide, and other forms of violence. Conversely, measures to restrict access to guns, including assault weapons, can save lives. A study on the impacts of reducing the availability of such firearms to Swiss Army members while at home revealed a decrease in the number of suicides.
Our organization sincerely thanks Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for following through on their promise to health workers and the Canadian public last fall. This decision is consistent with Canada’s commitment to evidence-based decision making and values of peace and community well-being. We also thank the 15 medical associations and two national women’s organizations who support our advocacy, and the many members of the public who have reached out to help. Finally, we particularly acknowledge the courage and conviction of survivors who have advocated for banning assault weapons. some for more than 30 years. We are grateful.
Today’s announcement begins a new era for public safety and gun control, yet more work has to be done to catch up to many of our peer nations in preventing firearm related injury and death. Canada ranks an unacceptable fifth among 23 peer countries in firearm mortality rate. In the coming weeks and months, we will be vigorously pursuing additional measures including an effective assault weapons buy-back program, a ban on all semi-automatic weapons, including semiautomatic handguns; changing the process of how new guns coming to market are classified; an effective red flag law; a harm reduction approach to the advertisement and sale of guns; measures to prevent the smuggling of firearms from other countries; and investments to address social determinants of gun violence including poverty and mental health.
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:
Empower Consulting, for Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns