Is My Mom Safer in Canada?
My mother recently purchased a vacation home in Nova Scotia. One of the things she likes about it is that she feels safer there than she does at home in Virginia Beach, because Canadaâ€™s murder rate is so much lower than it is in the United States. Our neighbors to the North pride themselves on their low crime rate, usually citing that their murder rate is far lower than ours (1.9 vs. 5.5 per 100,000 people in 2004). Frequently, proponents of gun control have held Canada up as an example of the benefits of gun control, again citing Canadaâ€™s lower murder rate. But does that lower murder rate mean my mom is safer there?
While Canada does have a lower murder rate that the U.S., the rates of all other violent crimes are higher in Canada â€“ significantly higher. In the U.S. last year (2005), there were approximately 471 violent crimes per 100,000 people. In Canada, there were 943 per 100,000. Thatâ€™s twice the U.S. violent crime rate. So why is our murder rate more than two-and-a-half times theirs? Because Blacks and Hispanics are murdered at a far higher rates than are Whites and Asians, and Canada has relatively few Blacks and Hispanics. Since my mom is neither Black nor Hispanic, I thought I would try to look at just the murder rates for White victims.
(N.B.: The statistics used here reflect who has been murdered, not who's doing the murdering. The point of this investigation is to show the relative safety of a White person, namely my mother, in the United States as compared to Canada, so the emphasis is on victim counts. I do not care about the race of the perpetrators here, because I do not think living in Canada will turn my mom into a violent criminal.)
Unfortunately, and unfathomably, the FBI does not keep, or at least does not publish, data on Hispanic crime victims. The options are Black, White, Other, and Unknown. Hispanics are classified as one of the above. Fortunately, some states do track Hispanic crime victims, and the Census Bureau tracks the races into which Hispanics classified.
Although the data is sketchy, some studies have concluded that the murder rate for Hispanics is about 9.1 per 100,000. U.S. Census data that tells us that 91% of Hispanics consider themselves â€œWhiteâ€ (when forced to choose), and 6% consider themselves â€œBlack.â€ With these census numbers and the Hispanic murder rate, we can derive the number of Hispanic victims, which we subtract from the reported Black and White victim counts. When we go back and recompute the murder rates for Whites and Blacks without the Hispanic victims, we find that the murder rate for Black victims is 18.1 per 100,000, while the White murder rate is only 1.9 per 100,000. Thus, the White murder rate in the U.S. is right in line with Canadaâ€™s.
So why, then, is Canadaâ€™s violent crime rate so high? The property crime rate is not significantly higher in Canada (3738 in Canada vs. 3517 in the U.S., per 100,000 people), so why should the violent crime be that much higher? Because we have guns. In the United States, a homeowner or a person shopping in the mall is far more likely to have a gun than is a Canadian, who is not permitted to carry a loaded handgun, even when he is licensed to have one at all. In Canada, handguns may only be transported if they are unloaded, are equipped with a trigger lock, and are locked in a case; and no stops may be made between oneâ€™s home and the (government approved) shooting range.
Another consequence of the Canadian gun ban is that, in Canada, 50% of burglaries are of occupied homes. That rate is only 13% here. Along with the higher burglary rate in Canada, that means that burglary of an occupied home in Canada is four times more common than it is here. Burglars don't get shot in Canada.
I am far less concerned for her safety when she is home in Virginia Beach than when she is in Nova Scotia, which has an even higher violent crime rate than does Canada as a whole. (Halifax, the capitol of Nova Scotia, has the highest crime rate of any city in Canada.) My mother is a widow, and one of the Social Security generation. Without a gun, she has no chance of defending herself against a typical young criminal. Here in the United States, my mom has the right to own a gun for personal protection. She is also protected here by the deterrence provided by our collective gun ownership, because the criminals donâ€™t know whether she has a gun or not.
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