Despite a number of high-profile shootings in recent years — including Wednesday's Ottawa shootings — Canada's gun violence stats are low. Reuters

The news Wednesday that a man had been killed after shots were fired in Ottawa alarmed many observers, given that Canada has long enjoyed low rates of gun violence. Despite a number of high-profile shooting incidents in recent years, Canada's gun violence statistics have stayed steady and low, according to official statistics.

Authorities were still working at noon Wednesday to contain the shooting incident in Ottawa, where a gunman was shot dead by police at the Canada War Memorial and shots rang out in at least one Parliament Hill building. Shots were also fired at Ottawa's Rideau Centre mall. Ottawa police confirmed all three incidents via Twitter. The investigation into Wednesday's shootings were ongoing. There were "numerous gunmen" involved in the shooting incidents, Marc Soucy of the Ottawa Police Service told CNN.

Canada has strict national gun-control laws in comparison to the U.S. Canadians must have a valid license to own a firearm, which requires recipients to pass a safety course, criminal history and background check. Canada also has requirements regarding personal references and a mandatory waiting period. In 2012, Canada reported only 172 firearm-related homicides out of a total of 543 homicides, the lowest tally in more than half a decade, in comparison with the United States' 8,813 homicides, according to statistics released by the Canadian government.

The most recent major shooting incident in Canada took place in June, when 24-year-old Jeffrey Bourque shot and killed three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in a spree in the Eastern Canadian town of Moncton. Canada's worst mass shooting, known as the Montreal Massacre, took place on Dec. 6, 1989, when 25-year-old gunman Marc Lepine killed 14 women in a 45-minute rampage at Montreal's Montreal's École Polytechnique.

Despite a reputation to the contrary -- fostered in large part by the popular 2002 Michael Moore film "Bowling For Columbine" -- Canada does have a high rate of gun ownership in comparison to most other nations. Canada had more guns per 100 citizens than Nicaragua (7.7), Pakistan (11.6) and Mexico (15). There were about 30.8 firearms per 100 Canadians in 2012, compared with 88.8 guns per 100 Americans, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Canada has been seized by a terrorism panic in recent days, as authorities have worried that radicalized jihadists pose a mounting threat. Canada raised its terrorist threat level to "medium" on Tuesday following a fatal hit-and-run attack on two Canadian military members by a Quebec man believed to be a terrorist sympathizer.

Canada is far from being the safest place in the world, as numerous countries have lower homicide rates. While Canada had a homicide rate of 1.6 per 100,000 people in 2012, the U.K.'s was 1.0, New Zealand's was 0.9 and Algeria's was 0.7, according to UNODC statistics. Meanwhile, Jamaica had a homicide rate of 41.1 per 100,000 people that year, South Africa's was 30.0 and the United States' was 4.7.