Firearm Safety Starts at Home
Firearm ownership is fairly common in rural households in Canada, where guns are used for hunting, sport and wildlife control. By and large, most Canadian firearm owners have long guns – a study in the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine shows about three-quarters have a rifle, and two-thirds a shotgun.
Almost always, these firearms are kept at home when not in use – which is why the Canada Safety Council is concerned about safe storage.
“Most gun-related deaths and injuries happen in and around the home,” says Canada Safety Council president Jack Smith.
A child playing with a loaded gun and inadvertently shooting a playmate is one of the most preventable tragedies. “Make it impossible for children to access a gun,” advises Smith.
When firearms are not properly stored, other serious safety issues can arise. A depressed or violent person could take an unsecured gun to harm themself or someone else. Guns could be stolen for criminal use. The availability of firearms is especially dangerous when there is domestic violence. According to a Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics report, almost one-third of spousal homicides are committed with a gun, with rifles being the weapon of choice.
Dr. Alan Drummond, a physician in Perth, Ontario says long guns are a major concern for doctors in rural areas. “As a rural emergency physician and coroner, I can safely say that I’ve never seen a handgun injury,” he says. “I have seen my share of injuries and deaths inflicted by rifles and shotguns. I have felt the pain of investigating a double murder-suicide as a result of escalating domestic violence.”
About 80 per cent of gun-related deaths are suicides, and most of them happen at home. According to Dr. Drummond, suicide is often an impulsive act. “Keeping guns away from depressed people is essential,” he says. “In assaults and murders I have seen that have involved guns, the perpetrators acted on impulse and the unsafely-stored long gun was readily available.”
According to a study published by the Canadian Medical Association in 2008, for every person killed with a firearm, an estimated 2.6 are injured – many of them very seriously. The study found that the average length of hospital stay for firearm injuries was 17.7 days, much longer than most other injuries. Long guns are involved in most “accidental” and self-inflicted gun injuries.
What you can do
If you have firearms in your home, the best way to prevent them from being involved in a tragedy is to keep them stored safely – unloaded and securely locked up. The Canada Safety Council recommends the following safety tips:
- Ensure firearms are unloaded at all times when stored.
- Lock the firearms in a cabinet, safe or room that was built or modified specifically to store firearms safely. Make sure the structure is difficult to break into.
- Attach a secure locking device, such as a trigger lock or cable lock (or remove the bolt) so the gun or rifle cannot be fired.
- Store ammunition separately and lock it up. While ammunition can be stored in the same container as the firearm, it should be locked up separately. Again, make sure it is difficult to break into.
- Children must not have access to the keys used to lock up firearms and ammunition. Always keep them in a secure and safe place.
- Teach your children not to handle firearms without adult supervision.
When it comes to safety, nothing replaces training. Anyone who uses a gun should take the Canadian Firearms Safety Course. For information contact the Chief Firearms Officer in your province:
Newfoundland: 1 800 731-4000 (ext. 5013) or Training Coordinator 1-709-637-2020
P.E.I: 1 800 731-4000 (ext. 5502)
Nova Scotia: 1 800 731-4000 (ext. 6505)
New Brunswick: 1 800 731-4000 (ext. 6000)
Québec: Info-sécure 1 888 523-2863
Ontario: 1 800 731-4000 (ext. 7503) or F.S.E.S.O. (ext. 7542)
Manitoba: 1 800 731-4000 (ext. 8004)
Saskatchewan: 1 800 731-4000 (ext. 8502)
Alberta: Alberta Hunter Education Instructors’ Association 1 866 852-4342 or (403) 252-8474
British Columbia: 1 800 731-4000 (ext. 9530)
NWT: 1 800 731-4000 (ext. 9026)
Yukon: 1 800 731-4000 (ext. 9530)
Nunavut: 1 800 731-4000 (ext. 4511)
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For more information, please contact:
Communications and Media Program Coordinator
(613) 739-1535 (ext. 228)
Past President, Canada Safety Council