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Amid concern over gun violence, majorities support ban on handguns, assault weapons

Whether it’s recent mass killings in Penticton, B.C., ongoing gang-related shootings in Toronto, or the Quebec City mosque killings in 2017, communities across the country have been shaken by gun violence in recent years.

The latest public opinion study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds Canadians divided by gender, gun ownership and region on the seriousness of gun-related crimes.

Across the country, half of Canadians (50%) consider gun violence a serious problem for the country, while half say political and media coverage of this issue has been overblown.

Concern over this issue is greatest in Ontario, where gang violence has contributed to stark increases in gun-related homicides.

Canadians appear to come to more consensus, regarding proposed policy responses. Six-in-ten Canadians (61%) say they would support an outright ban on civilian possession of handguns – something being pushed for by some of the country’s largest cities. The support level jumps to three-quarters (75%) when considering a ban on assault weapons.

Further, there is significant support for proposals to strengthen elements of the licensing and purchase process, including expanded background checks and comprehensive tracking of gun sale records. This includes majority support from current and former gun owners.

More Key Findings:

  • Some of the Angus Reid Institute’s findings are at odds with those recently released from an online survey by the Government of Canada. While the government survey found close to four-in-five Canadians saying they did not believe more should be done to limit access to handguns or assault weapons, ARI found nearly the opposite. Important methodological differences explain this and are discussed later in the report
  • Rural and urban respondents have very different concerns about gun violence. For those in Canadian cities, the biggest identified worry relates to gang activity (48% say this). Rural Canadians, by contrast, voice higher levels of concern about accidental shootings or guns used for suicide than those in urban areas
  • Those with more self-professed knowledge of Canada’s gun laws are more comfortable with the current procedure for acquiring a license and firearm. This group is also more likely to say Canadian gun laws overall are too strict – 37 per cent say this. Those with no knowledge are nearly three-times as likely to say the laws are not strict enough compared to the most well-informed (54% to 20%)
  • Canadians are divided about what a handgun ban would mean for the black market. Half (46%) say it would not make guns more difficult for criminals to obtain, while half (48%) say it would
  • Two-thirds of Canadians (65%) say they would support a taxpayer funded buy-back program for gun owners if the government did, indeed, ban handguns, assault weapons, or both

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