Gun Violence in Canada and the Disproportionate Impact on Women and Girls by Alexandria Marie

This summer I was walking home from my bus stop when a group of kids caught my eye. I froze as one of the young boys raised a small gun towards one of the other boys in the group – my heart stopped for a moment, and then the child yelled “Bang!” and started to giggle. His friend pretended to be shot and fell to the ground laughing, dramatically faking his death. The other boys in the group pulled out their plastic guns and started chasing each other around. I stood there stunned with the fear I had just felt contradicting with the amount of laughter and joy coming from a group. It was a reminder that we live in a society where media and pop culture have begun to take away the severity of gun violence. Guns are being seen more like toys, and the severity of their potential impacts are being forgotten. This is just one of the many factors causing increased amounts of gun violence across Canada, particularly in cases of gender-based violence (GBV). The Coalition for Gun Control found that between 2013 and 2016 intimate partner violence and GBV involving the use of a firearm increased by a third. Though gun violence is not always the first thing to come to mind when people think of GBV, it is something that must be addressed. The Canadian Women’s Foundation highlights that homicide is not the only impact of gun violence in intimate partner violence and GBV. Individuals may also face other impacts such as intimidation, control and the threat of homicide, which led to an average of 3,500 women and 2,750 children a night sleeping in emergency anti-violence shelters across Canada. Though some assume gun violence is most prevalent in urban centres, it is women in rural regions of Canada who are most at risk. The Canadian Women’s Foundation found that Saskatchewan reported the highest rate of homicides caused by a firearm in 2016. The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs also indicated that in rural regions, firearms have been referred to as the “weapon of choice” in domestic violence. Women in rural areas are also more likely to face the intimidation and threat of homicide, controlling them and keeping them in the home. The recent reforms that came into force in June 2019 are legislated by Bill C-71. These new regulations: require verification of firearm licenses; return the task of classifying firearms back to the RCMP. For background, the previous government had moved classification of firearms – which determines how much they are regulated – away from the RCMP and over to a Minister. restore discretion to the Chief Provincial Firearms Officer, who is responsible for decision-making and administrative work related to licenses, authorizations to transport and authorizations to carry, and transfers of firearms by individuals and businesses; require gun retailers to keep a record of sales, with reference to a license number and a firearm’s make and model; and extends the reach of background checks on applicants who wish to purchase firearms from five years to 10 years. Though these changes do lead to better checks on who can purchase and transport firearms, more needs to be done to protect women and girls from gun violence across Canada. This includes prevention services and additional services for individuals impacted by gun violence. Additionally, we as a society must all work to counter the narrative and representation of gun violence in pop culture and media. It is time to end gun violence in intimate partner violence and GBV. Authors name has been changed to protect their identity. If you are interested in getting involved – check out the Doctors for Protection from Guns and the Coalition for Gun Controls calls to actions over the next two days and donate to support them .