Murder rate drops to 44-year low

Wed Oct 26, 2011 2:18pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's murder rate in 2010 fell to a 44-year low of just 1.62 per 100,000 people, official data showed on Wednesday, just a day after the government said it would ease the country's strict gun laws.

By contrast, the murder rate in the neighboring United States - where gun laws are generally more relaxed - was 4.8 per 100,000 people in 2010.

Statistics Canada said police reported 554 homicides in 2010, 56 fewer than in 2009. The decline followed a decade of relative stability in Canada, which has a population of around 34.5 million.

Statscan said the overall drop in murders was driven by fewer incidents in the Western provinces, which had seen several gang-related killings in recent years, and noted a steady decline in murders committed with rifles and shotguns.

This could pose awkward questions for the right-leaning Conservative government, which on Tuesday said it would press ahead with plans to scrap a registry of long guns on the grounds that it was expensive and did not help cut crime.

The registry was set up in 1995 in reaction to a massacre in 1989 in which a gunman with a rifle murdered 14 women at a Montreal college.

Gun licenses are already mandatory for anyone wishing to use weapons, and registration of handguns has been long been required.

The Conservatives are also pressing ahead with a program to toughen sentences for serious crimes.

A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he was pleased to see the lower number of murders.   Continued...

<p>Police officers gather at a downtown police station prior to a funeral for Toronto Police Sgt. Ryan Russell in Toronto, January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>