Canadian gun registry

Canadian gun registry

The Canadian gun registry is a government-run registry of all legally-owned guns in Canada. It was introduced by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and implemented by successive Justice Ministers Allan Rock and Anne McLellan. It requires every firearm in Canada to be registered or rendered in an unusable state. This was an effort to reduce crime by making every gun traceable. This should not be construed as suggesting that registration of a firearm is free. Any person wishing to obtain a firearm must first acquire a "Possession and Acquisition Licence" or PAL. [http://www.cfc-ccaf.gc.ca/online-en_ligne/form-assistance/PDFs/921_e.pdf] The PAL carries a fee of $60 for non-restricted, $80 for restricted, and is renewable every five years. Expiry dates are set on the holder's birthday following the fifth anniversary of the initial issue of the licence.

The current Conservative government has introduced legislation to repeal the requirement to register non-restricted firearms (Bill C-21). C-21 received first reading in the House of Commons on June 19, 2006, but has not been passed by Parliament. In addition, regulatory changes made in May 2006 provide a one-year amnesty for rifle and shotgun owners facing prosecution for failing to register their firearms. This amnesty was extended for an additional year in April 2007 and again in May 2008. As of May 2008, the amnesty is in force until May 2009. [cite web | url=http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=80f74558-04f9-469f-8dd1-5a7cf4b8ce7e | title=Government extends gun-registration amnesty | accessdate=2008-05-26 | date=2008-05-14]

Early history

Canada had a gun registry earlier during the Second World War, when all people were compelled to register their firearms out of fear of enemy subversion. This registry was discontinued after the war; however, all handguns have been subject to registration since 1934. In addition, fully automatic firearms have been prohibited (with exemptions to licensed full-automatic weapons collectors) since 1977. In the mid-1990s, short-barrelled handguns and those firing .25 ACP and .32 ACP ammunition, with the exception of certain guns typically used in shooting competitions, were added to the list of prohibited firearms.

Initial opposition

Opposition to the registry, particularly outside of Canada's major cities, was immediate. It was argued that the registry would not make Canadians safer and that it was only a step on the way to the confiscation of all guns in Canada.Fact|date=April 2007 Small scale confiscations of some firearms after the registry took effect and Prime Minister Paul Martin's 2006 election promise of a national ban on handguns seems to have confirmed this fear. The provincial governments of Ontario and Alberta also attacked the bill arguing it exceeded the federal government's mandate, however the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the registry in Reference re Firearms Act.

The Conservative Party of Canada claims to remain committed to scrapping the registry. They claim that if the same amount of money was invested in expanding the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) force instead of requiring gun registration, far more lives would be saved. The Canadian Press reported that a committee made up of then–Justice Minister Vic Toews, Public Security Minister Stockwell Day, and Tory backbencher Garry Breitkreuz has been formed to work out how to scrap the long gun registry and reinvest the money in RCMP officers. At this time it seems that no such committee was ever formed and Breitkreuz had never met with Toews on the matter. However, Breitkreuz was consulted about changes the Conservatives introduced on May 17, 2006.

Cost overruns

The registry again became a political issue in the early 2000s when massive cost overruns were reported. The project which was meant to cost approximately $119 million ended up costing over 3 billion dollars to implement. Documents obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation now estimate the program cost at $20 billion.

In December 2002, the Auditor-General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, reported that the project was running vastly above initial cost estimates. The report shows that the implementation of the firearms registry program by the Department of Justice has had significant strategic and management problems throughout. Taxpayers were originally expected to pay only $2 million of the budget while registration fees would cover the rest. In 1995, the Department of Justice reported to Parliament that the system would cost $119 million to implement, and that the income generated from licensing fees would be $117 million. This gives a net cost of $2 million. At the time of the 2002 audit, the revised estimates from the Department of Justice were that the cost of the program would be more than $1 billion by 2004/05 and that the income from licence fees in the same period would be $140 million.

The Auditor General's report found other significant problems with the way the project had been handled. These included significant questions around the financial management of the project. In particular, the report stated that estimated project costs often excluded project costs incurred by other agencies, such as the RCMP and provincial governments, giving a false impression of real cost. Problems were likewise reported with how funds were requested from Parliament, with 70% of funds requested through "supplementary estimates," a method intended for unanticipated expenditures and requiring only a one-line statement to Parliament on the purpose of the request. In comparison, only 10% of funds for all other programs in the department were requested in this way over the same period.Fact|date=May 2008

The causes of the cost overruns have been blamed on the inexperience of the Justice Department in managing a project of such scale. Especially crucial was that the scope of the project was in continuous flux requiring continuous changes to the basic set-up of the registry. This excuse, however, does not explain the extreme lengths the government went to in order to mislead Parliament about the cost and hide the actual amounts of money being spent.

Corruption charges

In January 2006, the RCMP were asked to probe a Liberal Party consultant over a $380,000 contract: Kim Doran was awarded to lobby the federal government for funds for the ailing firearms registry. The five-month contract was awarded by the Justice Department to Doran in March 2003 to lobby the federal Solicitor General, Treasury Board and Privy Council, according to a detailed lobbyist report. At the time, Doran was representing the Coalition for Gun Control. The group, which receives both government and private funding, claims to represent anti-firearm groups and municipalities. It is a strong supporter of the gun registry. [ Greenwood, Bill. "Liberals just keep wasting our money," "Red Deer Advocate" (AB), Jan 11, 2006]

Tony Bernardo, director of the 12,000-member Canadian Shooting Sports Association, opined that the gun registry program funds would be better used for Canadian law and justice purposes. He said his Canadian organization, should also 'get government funding for a consultant to lobby on behalf of law abiding gun owners'. The group asked the RCMP to probe into the matter. "Isn't it inappropriate for the Federal Government to hire a private lobbyist with taxpayers' dollars to lobby itself?" the organization complained to the RCMP. "Isn't it inappropriate for an employee of the Liberal Party to profit from funds granted by the government of Canada?" Doran is listed as Vice-President of Federal Affairs for the Liberals' Ontario Women's Commission and was the party's Deputy National Director of Organization and Policy.

Use of the registry

Despite the questions of corruption, problems, erroneous data, and inefficiency, police departments frequently use the Canadian gun registry data base to allow police officers to check if a residence or property might contain a registered firearm before responding to a call. The gun registry has received support from the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs. Chief Jack Ewatski, president of the CACP, and Chief Armand LaBarge, president of the Ontario Association of Police Chiefs, stated that police officers across the country search the registry about 5,000 times per day.Fact|date=September 2008 However, most of those 5,000 queries are generated automatically when other queries are submitted to the CPIC system. In actual fact, as the Auditor General found, there is no reliable information to suggest how many times per day police officers intentionally access the firearms registry.Fact|date=September 2008 The police chiefs noted that the registry had enabled law enforcement officials to get firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill.Fact|date=September 2008

Gun registry effect on public safety

The Auditor General's report also found that there is a lack of evidence to support the effectiveness of the gun registry, or to prove that it is meeting its stated goal of improving public safety. The report states:

The performance report focuses on activities such as issuing licenses and registering firearms. The Centre does not show how these activities help minimize risks to public safety with evidence-based outcomes such as reduced deaths, injuries and threats from firearms. [ [http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=7f744959-cd1a-4746-af84-53957b01a6a0 canada.com news story] ]

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino is opposed to the gun registry, stating in a press release:

We have an ongoing gun crisis including firearms-related homicides lately in Toronto, and a law registering firearms has neither deterred these crimes nor helped us solve any of them. None of the guns we know to have been used were registered, although we believe that more than half of them were smuggled into Canada from the United States. The firearms registry is long on philosophy and short on practical results considering the money could be more effectively used for security against terrorism as well as a host of other public safety initiatives." [ [http://www.gunowners.org/op0507.htm Garry Breitkreuz] ]

Gary Mauser, a member of the Fraser Institute and professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, has stated:

The handguns being misused are illegal. Nobody thinks banning guns will stop violent crime, and there is no empirical support for gun controls working. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4636102.stm BBC news article] ]

ecurity

John Hicks, an Orillia-area computer consultant, and webmaster for the Canada Firearms Centre, has said that anyone with a home computer could have easily accessed names, addresses and detailed shopping lists (including make, model and serial number) of registered guns belonging to licensed firearms owners. Hicks told the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) that "During my tenure as the CFC webmaster I duly informed management that the website that interfaced to the firearms registry was flawed. It took some $15 million to develop and I broke it inside of about 30 minutes."

Hicks says that the CFC's former system allowed hackers to find vulnerable user accounts and fool the system into thinking that the hacker was the actual licensed gun owner. Mr. Hicks said he repeatedly warned CFC management to properly protect gun owners' personal information before he filed an official complaint with the Privacy Commissioner. Hicks says that the Privacy Commissioner responded that they would investigate further should anyone complain that they were targeted due to information gleaned from the CFRS database.

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters [ [http://www.ofah.org/News/index.cfm?ID=2&A=GetDoc&DID=768 Gun files easy to hack] ] questioned the security of the gun registry after a home invasion that seemed to target a licensed gun collector. The OFAH argues that, in the wrong hands, a database detailing the whereabouts of every legally-owned firearm in Canada is a potential shopping list for criminals.

Role in United States gun politics

The National Rifle Association and other guns rights groups in the United States have used the Canadian registry as an example of the potential failure such a system would be if implemented in the United States which has far more firearms in private circulation than Canada.Fact|date=July 2008

The Violence Policy Center has also argued against such a system being implemented in the United States as well on the grounds that it would not reduce gun violence in America. [ [http://www.vpc.org/fact_sht/licreg.htm "Licensing and Registration: What it Can and Can Not Do"] ]

References

ee also

*Gun politics in Canada
*Possession and Acquisition Licence
*Dominion of Canada Rifle Association

External links

* [http://www.cfc-cafc.gc.ca/online-en_ligne/default_e.asp Canadian Firearms Program: On-Line Services]
* [http://www.cfc-cafc.gc.ca/faq/default_e.asp Canadian Firearms Program: FAQ]
* [http://www.guncontrol.ca/ Coalition for Gun Control]
* [http://www.jjhicks.com/advisories/CFC-15SEP2003.html JJHicks.com Security Advisory: Predictability and Vulnerability in the Canadian Firearms Centre's On-Line Services Web Site]
* [http://www.lufa.ca Law-abiding Unregistered Firearms Association]
* [http://www.nfa.ca National Firearms Association]


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