The Adoption of Mandatory Gunshot Wound Reporting Legislation in Canada: A Decade of Tension in Lawmaking at the Intersection of Law Enforcement and Public Health
In 2005, Ontario adopted the Mandatory Gunshot Wounds Reporting Act. Over the following decade, seven other provinces and one territory adopted largely identical legislation. While these statutes require health facilities to report gunshot wounds to the police, they are mostly silent on what purpose this reporting is intended to achieve and how police are to use the reports to achieve it. This paper analyzes the legislative history across these nine jurisdictions to identify these features. It demonstrates that the statutes embody an unresolved tension between the purposes of public health and safety, on the one hand, and law enforcement on the other. In particular, the legislative debates focus heavily on criminality and gang activity, anchored in the dubious assumption that victims of gunshot wounds are criminals. Both this assumption and the absence of epidemiological provisions undermine the purported purpose of public health and safety. The paper then sets out a series of amendments that would improve these statutes. At a minimum these would include explicit purpose and use provisions. To the extent that public health and safety is indeed an actual purpose, several other changes would also be appropriate.