New gun control legislation a big, evidence-based step towards reducing gun injury and death in Canada
Toronto, May 30, 2022 – Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG) is welcoming the announcement of new firearm legislation by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino today as another important step in protecting public health and well-being. Entrenchment of the assault weapons ban, action on high-capacity magazines, and ending the purchase, transfer, and sale of new handguns across the country all reflect the advice from the health care community that these weapons are an unnecessary risk to our communities.
“Reducing access to handguns and banning assault weapons are evidence-based measures that will save lives,” said Dr. Najma Ahmed, co-Chair of CDPG and Professor of Surgery, Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. "I was the on-call surgeon the night of the Danforth shooting in 2018, an act committed in Toronto with a handgun originating in Saskatchewan. I will never forget that night. My colleagues and I have seen too many lives cut short or forever changed by the bullet from a gun and it is why we created Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns in 2019.”
Shortly after CDPG was formed, physicians and other health workers rallied in cities across the country to call for a national ban on handguns and assault weapons. More than 15 health care associations including the Canadian Medical Association have since echoed this call. Today’s announcement is a win for public health advocacy.
“Gun injury is a public health issue,” said Dr. Kirstin Weerdenburg, Pediatric Emergency Physician and Trauma Team Leader at IWK Health in Halifax. “I am proud of my colleagues such as Dr. David Mulder and Dr. Alan Drummond who have been advocating for action on gun control for decades.”
While there are many details to be reviewed in the legislation and this is undeniably an important step, there is much work left to do, including expanding direct federal support for community-led initiatives that address social determinants of gun violence – poverty and racism among them, and identifying new ways to reduce the smuggling of guns into Canada from the United States.
More than 75% of gun deaths in Canada are suicides and the science is very clear that restricting access to lethal means will save lives, particularly because most people who survive a suicide attempt do not try again, and the risk of a completed suicide with a gun is very likely. In addition, the arming of hate is an increasing cause for concern, as evidenced by the seizure of guns in Coutts, Alberta in February. We are concerned there is does not appear to be a clearer “red flag law” mechanism to quickly remove guns from someone who may be a risk to themselves or others in these contexts. We look forward to more direct engagement with Minister Mendicino on this subject.
CDPG has also advocated for a national firearms research and policy centre, a proposal that was the first recommendation in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security’s report on gun control this spring. Unfortunately, this too is not included. While some of our members have contributed to recent, important studies on gun injury and death in Canada, the government and public would benefit from better understanding the full breadth of the issue and to study existing and potential policies that will save lives and reduce harm from guns.
“The two most recent mass shootings in the United States – targeting the black community in Buffalo and children in Uvalde – are yet another wake-up call for Canadians to not only remain vigilant in our commitment to firearm restrictions but to work to strengthen policies and address social determinants that will reduce gun injury and death,” said Dr. Julie Maggi, CDPG co-founder and Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.
While Canada’s rate of gun death is fortunately much lower than that of the United States, we compare much less favourably to other peer countries. In fact, our age-adjusted firearm mortality rate is 5th highest among 23 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It is why CDPG members will continue to advocate.
“Preventing gun injury and death is, or at least should be, a non-partisan issue,” said Dr. Elizabeth Varughese, Family Physician and Clinical Instructor, University of British Columbia. “We look forward to ongoing dialogue with this government and the opposition parties to protect public health and well-being.”
On this important day, Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns recognizes the work of many other advocacy groups who have helped bring about the important changes made today, including PolySeSouvient, Danforth Families for Safe Communities, and the Coalition for Gun Control. We applaud their commitment.
About Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns
Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG) is a grassroots organization concerned about the increasing public health impact of firearms. We represent physicians working in collaboration with nurses, paramedics, rehabilitation specialists, psychologists, researchers and other front-line health care professionals. We have all witnessed first-hand the emotional and physical trauma and devastation caused by guns. CDPG calls for a comprehensive public policy response to this crisis in our communities, including preventative tools to reduce gun use and their consequences on youth violence, domestic abuse, and suicide.
For more information, please contact:
Empower Consulting, for CDPG