by Patrick Cain
The idea of asking for firearms data broken down by individual weapon and two-character postal code owes quite a lot to a project the Ottawa Citizen published a couple of years ago (though we’ve taken our analysis in another direction). With the federal government moving to delete the long gun portion of the registry, it was obviously our only chance to request this kind of data, so we did.
One thing that popped out of the data very quickly was that there were many, many handguns listed as non-restricted weapons, which means, all other things being equal, that they will be deleted along with the mainstream rifles and shotguns in the long gun registry. (The registry itself has not yet been deleted, but the data outside Quebec can no longer be accessed by police.)
Using a fairly simple visual searching strategy, in a couple of hours I’d found 361 handguns classed as non-restricted weapons. (The “long gun registry” is shorthand for the non-restricted weapons in the full national firearms registry.)
The full database has 7.9 million weapons, which sounds intimidating, but I sliced out the non-restricted weapons with a category of “other” (as opposed to “rifle” or “shotgun” and so on), which reduced it to about 32,000, and looked at them in Excel. Weapons like air rifles and black powder muskets were fairly easy to screen out, which reduced the pool further.
The stray handguns are presented in a jQuery table, something that owes a lot to Chris Schnaars’ presentation at the NICAR conference. NICAR-L was helpful with a last-minute emergency (a bug in the code that I never would have found on my own.).