June 5, 2014 3:14 pm

UPDATED: Why does Moncton have such high gun-crime rates?

Police officers take cover behind their vehicles in Moncton, New Brunswick, on Wednesday June 4, 2014.

AP Photo/Moncton Times & Transcript, Ron Ward via The Canadian Press

Note: Updated with further analysis Sunday, June 8, 2014

The fatal, terrifying rampage of a shooter tearing through Moncton Wednesday and Thursday was rare.

But in this Maritime municipality gun crime, relatively speaking, is not.

Ownership isn’t unusually high: There were about 50 firearm licences per 1,000 in Moncton in 2010, on par with Fredericton (but higher than Halifax).

But Moncton has one of the highest rates of violent crime of any Canadian city.

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And, along with Halifax, it boasted the highest rate of firearm-related violent crime among Canadian cities in 2012, according to Statistics Canada. That year, Moncton had a rate of 39 violent, firearm-related incidents per 100,000 people. And almost 80 per cent of victims involved in gun-related crime in Moncton that year were shot by handguns.

READ MORE: Live coverage of the Moncton manhunt

Violent gun crime involving rifles of the kind Justin Bourque’s accused of using to shoot three RCMP officers to death accounted for under six per cent of the city’s gun-related violent incidents that year. (13 per cent of violent crime involving firearms involved a “firearm-like weapon” such as flare or pellet guns)

 

Prof. Frank Cormier, Criminology Field Coordinator at the University of Manitoba, says Moncton’s high firearm-related violent crime rate is due to Moncton’s relatively small size, close proximity to rural communities and the popularity of hunting within New Brunswick.

“More people tend to be involved in it so you tend to have more firearms,” he said. “Fact is, when violent crimes occur, people tend to pick up whatever is convenient—firearms tend to be more likely to be there within reach.”

And guns, he said, tend more often to be involved in less personal, often premeditated acts of violence.

“Often when you know someone it’s unplanned, heat of the moment, and you use an object that is close by, so knives are commonly used.”

 

This wasn’t the first time Moncton has mourned its uniformed officers. Forty years ago, Cpl. Auréle Bourgeois and Const. Michael O’Leary were fatally shot on Dec. 13, 1974.

Cpl. Bourgeois and Const. O’Leary were working a traffic stop when they unknowingly pulled over James Hutchinson and Richard Ambrose, two suspects in a kidnapping case.

IN DEPTH: Moncton shooting

According to a report by Rob Tripp, Hutchinson and Ambrose were able to disarm Cpl. Bourgeois and Const. O’Leary by drawing a gun. The officers were then driven to a wooded area on the outskirts of Moncton where the suspects were forced to dig their graves, put inside and fatally shot in the head.

Both suspects were convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to life in prison when Canada abolished its death penalty in 1976.

That double murder is credited with inciting one of several popular pushes for better gun control in Canada.

Interactive: Gun licences by postal code. Double-click to zoom; click and drag to move around.

Firearms licence rate, 2010 »

Firearms licence rate, 2010

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