The long-gun registry was inspired by the murder of 14 students at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique by Marc Lapine using a legally obtained Mini-14 rifle. And it was born with the passage of Bill C-68 (the Firearms Act) in 1995. Among other things, Bill C-68 required all shotguns and rifles be registered.
Since its inception, the long-gun register has been mired in controversy, distortions and scandal. The gun registry is reasonable described as a boondoggle and one of the most embarrassing spending scandals in federal Liberal Party history.
In 1995, taxpayers were promised they’d have to pay only $2-million of the budget—gun registration fees would cover the rest. But in 2002 an federal government audit showed estimates from the Department of Justice were that more than $1-billion would be spent by 2005. These costs have now risen to almost $2-billion.
In 2006, Tony Bernardo, an anti-long-gun-registry spokesman wondered at the inappropriateness “for the Federal [Liberal] Government to hire a private lobbyist with taxpayers’ dollars to lobby itself?” This after it was divulged that a consultant was awarded a $380,000 five-month contract by the Justice Department in March 2003 to lobby the Solicitor General, Treasury Board and Privy Council for funds for the ailing firearms registry.
With this checkered background, one would think Canadians would be happy to see the end of the long-gun registry. Apparently not. Many police chiefs and the RCMP, for example, believe the registry keeps us safer, but offer little but their own say-so to support their public statements.
A frequently used statistic to support keeping long-guns in the registry is the 14,012 average daily queries the RCMP claim were made in 2010. This oft-quoted statistic is grossly misleading as only 530 of those are specific to firearms registration (i.e., licence number, serial number and certificate number). The remaining 96.3 per cent (13,482) are automatically generated every time an address is checked or a license plate is verified. And even the specific registry queries can be misleading as they are not limited to use by police officers, but also include “hits” when legal sales of firearms are made: every time a firearm is legally purchased, three queries are generated on the registry (CFRO)—one for the buyer, one for the seller, and one for the firearm.
The sad fact is there’s no reliable information to suggest how many times per day police officers intentionally access the firearms registry, notwithstanding the fact proponents of the registry cite these RCMP statistics repeatedly in media reports and legal hearings.
But politics has won out as it always does in Ottawa.
Registration of long-guns in the overall Canadian Firearms Registry only applies to sporting rifles and shotguns, and all firearms classified as restricted or prohibited would remain registered. Moreover, a Possession and Acquisition Licence and the prerequisite training are mandatory when one seeks to purchase or possess any firearm. As well, hunter education programs are a requirement of all hunters in Canada. Even had the House passed the recent private members’ bill to scrap the long-gun portion of the registry, these restrictions and controls would still have applied.
Spin, half-truths and muddled reasoning have been hallmarks of this debate. Take these two examples:
- One Liberal MP, who had always voted in favour of scrapping the long-gun registry, apparently voted to preserve it on Wednesday because his father had killed himself with a gun.
Just how the registry prevents suicides is beyond me.
- According to Liberal chief Michael Ignatieff, emergency room doctors and nurses support the gun registry. So what! I’m a retired accountant, and I do not. What special insight could doctors and nurses possible have on this issue?
It’s been the law in Canada since 1934 to register handguns. Yet handgun crimes are rampant on the streets of Toronto, and handguns are now the firearm of choice for most murderers. If registration had the power to prevent crime and improve our safety, this simply would not be the case.
Why then did the Liberals whip their members to support maintaining long-gun registration? I don’t know, but suspect it has something to do with the fact the Liberal Party is a Toronto-centric, left of centre party. And many in Toronto see no value at all to gun ownership. Most Liberals in Toronto would back any law that would outright ban civilian possession of any and all guns, short and long, in Canada. They’d do it and the rest of us be damned.