Domestic Violence and Guns: Canada’s Unspoken Problem

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At Interval House, we hear countless stories from women who have survived and fled domestic violence. We hear stories about abusive partners who pointed a gun at them and threatened that if they ever leave, they won’t live to see another day. And unfortunately, death threats are not uncommon when it comes to an abusive relationship. It’s another reason why women feel like they can’t leave.

Just south of the Canadian border, the Supreme Court of the United States recently decided in the ruling of Voisine vs. US that it’s illegal for people convicted of a domestic violence-related crime to own a gun. This is an amazing step forward to protect survivors of violence.

But what about Canada? We’re fortunate to have similar laws and regulations in place that have the same effect: there was a motion added last year to the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, aiming to crack down on gun ownership and domestic violence.

But even with that added motion, women are still being killed at gunpoint by their domestic abusers. How does this continue to happen?

Take the example of Camille Runke who was killed by gunshot by her husband, Kevin Runke.  He was a gun owner who violated Camille’s protection order against him 22 times before she was shot just outside her workplace. He had access to a gun, legally. Because even though he had a history of domestic violence, he had never been convicted.

Camille’s story is not an isolated case. It’s something we see frequently. Basil Borutski, killed three of his ex-partners, two of whom he shot with a gun, in Renfrew Country this past September. Gurjinder Dhaliwal shot and killed his former girlfriend in the parking lot of Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus.

These stories all happened in Canada and within the last year. Guns, in the hands of domestic abusers, are deadly – and the legislation isn’t stopping them if they don’t have a criminal record. Compared to the United States, there are far more firearm restrictions in Canada, as well as lower rates of gun-related crime.

But that’s not the full story when it comes to gun-related domestic violence in Canada. Even with our legislation, firearms are involved in approximately one-third of all domestic homicides. The reality is that gun violence is not just a “US problem.” It’s also Canadian problem; an atrocity that’s costing women’s lives and preventing women with abusive partners from leaving them.

And that’s what a woman in an abusive relationship doesn’t need: one more reason to keep her from leaving.