Dunblane Massacre Resource Page

Press Report on ICVS

The Third International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS). The article below was written for the Canadian Press, but the ICVS Survey contains information of interest to all.

Pertinent points to note:

Johnny <johnny@dvc.org.uk>

Date: Mon, 30 Mar 1998 22:06:22 -0600
From: Lorne Gunter <lgunter@thejournal.southam.ca>
Subject: Canadians suffer as much crime as Americans

by Lorne Gunter
appeared in the Edmonton Journal 31.3.98

Lost last week by Canadian newspapers and networks, amid their sanctimonious tut-tutting about the mass killing in a Jonesboro, Ark. schoolyard, was the release of The Third International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS).

In part, this is justifiable. Five simultaneous murders is a bigger story than the release of yet another dry statistical report, especially when four of the victims are children and the fifth their pregnant teacher.

The shortcoming lies in the Canadian moral clucking surrounding the Jonesboro shootings versus the silence over the implications of the ICVS.

The CBC English television network directly blamed the National Rifle Association for the five deaths in Arkansas. To hear its report, one would think NRA vice-president Charlton Heston had had his finger on the trigger.

John Bierman of the Financial Post shrieked "It's the gun culture, stupid," which is true in a way, but not the way Bierman means. Then he called on the Americans to emulate Canada or Britain and implement strict controls on guns.

Bierman, and several other Canadian commentators who mimicked his knee-jerk reaction, ignore at least three significant points. Canada's gun laws were already quite strict when a madman killed 14 female students at the Universite du Montreal in 1989, and yet the laws did not save them (nor will the even stricter laws being implemented this fall prevent future madmen from committing similar mass killings). Mass killings are committed with machetes, bombs and other weapons, too, and their cause perplexes psychologists and sociologists. And, if the cause of a crime is cultural, a change to gun laws will be virtually powerless to alter it.

Which is why it was unforgivable that Canadian journalists should have overlooked the ICVS.

Canadians have smug attitudes towards the United States on a number of subjects - health care, welfare and crime among them. While in each case our smugness is undeserved, it is especially undeserved on crime. Like several studies before it, the ICVS shows that except for murder, Canadians suffer as much violent crime as Americans, and more non-violent crime. Our view of all America as the final shootout from a John Wayne movie and all Canada as an idyllic scene from Anne of Green Gables is simplistic, arrogant and wrong; it borders on outright prejudice.

According to the ICVS, which is conducted here by Statistics Canada, 25 percent of Canadians were the victim of a crime in 1996 versus 24 per cent of Americans. Six per cent of Canucks suffered a violent crime - a robbery, armed robbery, sexual assault or common assault - versus seven percent of Americans.

The highest incidence of violent crime in the industrialized world was in England and Wales, where eight per cent of residents were victimized in 1996 (and total victimization is 40 per cent higher than in the U.S.) and where gun laws are even stricter than in Canada.

Household burglaries and car thefts were as high in Canada as in the U.S (in England and France they were 50 per cent higher than in North America), with the added proviso that burglaries in Canada are more than four times as likely to occur when the residents are home as they are in the U.S. Theft of other personal property was 50 per cent higher north of the 49th parallel, than south.

The vastly higher murder rate in the U.S. is an important difference. But it certainly does not justify our gun laws, nor discredit theirs.

For more than a century, American murder rates have been three to 10 times higher than those of other western nations. And the differences in rates have remained reasonably constant before and after the introduction of strict gun laws in Canada, Britain, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and elsewhere. Indeed, the murder rates in other industrialized nations have inched closer to those in the U.S. despite various attempts to register all guns or license all gun owners, or even ban guns altogether.

For some reason, Americans see murder as a solution to their problems - murder with guns, murder with knives, murder with fists - much more often than do the citizens of other western nations.

The difference lies in their culture, not just their "gun culture." Crimes of all sorts, including murder, are lowest in those states with the highest rates of gun ownership. States such as Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Montana, where gun ownership is at least twice what it is in Canada, have murder rates as low as one-half that in the provinces which are their immediate neighbours.

The ICVS points out what Interpol and others have also pointed out, Canadians have no reason to be smug about crime, or about gun laws.

Visit the Cdn-Firearms web site

Posted: Fri Apr 17 1998