The Gun Registry Issue in Canada
Since 1995 in Canada, the Canadian gun registry, formally called the Canadian Firearms Registry, was a cornerstone of the Liberal government policy on gun control.
Soaring costs and administrative mismanagement, in concert with strong political, philosophical and emotional differences of opinion on gun control, have combined to make the gun registry a hot issue for years. The gun registry issue tends to split between Western and rural opponents and Eastern and urban supporters. During the 2006 election campaign, guns and gun violence were a high-profile issue, and the Conservatives proposed eliminating the Canadian gun registry completely.
Since the Conservatives were elected in January 2006 with a minority government, they are not sure of enough votes in Parliament to go ahead with cutting the gun registry altogether. Instead they started by taking regulatory measures to dismantle the long-gun portion of the registry but to leave the gun registry in place for restricted weapons and handguns.
- An amnesty has been put in place until May 17, 2007 to protect previously licensed owners of non-restricted firearms from prosecution under the Criminal Code for unlawful possession of a non-restricted firearm in Canada. The amnesty does not apply to individuals who have never obtained a firearms licence.
- The government is implementing licence renewal fee waivers and refunds.
- The government is eliminating physical verification of non-restricted firearms.
- In June 2006 the government followed up on the amnesty for long-guns by tabling a bill to abolish the long-gun registry, which would repeal the requirement to register non-restricted firearms. The government will not be able to move on the bill before the fall of 2006.
- The Firearms Act was passed in 1995 establishing a program to license all owners of firearms in Canada, and a registration program for firearms.
- A major change in the gun control system was that all firearms, including rifles and shotguns not just restricted weapons, would have to be registered. That meant a significant increase in the number of gun owners subject to controls.
- The law was gradually phased in up to January 2003.
- 1995 estimates of the cost of the Canadian Firearms Program were that it would cost $119 million, but registration fees would bring in $117 million, leaving the total cost to the taxpayers of $2 million.
- A preliminary audit released in the Auditor General Report 2002 revealed that the Department of Justice was estimating the gun registry program would cost more than $1 billion by 2004-05, and collect about $140 million in fees. This estimate did not include all financial impacts on the government.
- After the release of the 2002 audit, the Department of Justice hired an outside consultant to review the program and in 2003 announced a Gun Control Action Plan to reduce costs and improve management of the gun control program.
- In the follow-up Auditor General Report 2006 in May 2006, the Auditor General said that although the Canada Firearms Centre had made progress on financial reporting, on two occasions the Liberal government did not report significant overruns of tens of millions of dollars for the gun registry computer system.
- Responding to the May 2006 Auditor General Report, the Conservative government announced plans to dismantle the long-gun portion of the gun registry, including a one-year amnesty for previously licensed owners on the registration and licensing of long guns, but to leave the gun registry in place for restricted weapons and handguns.
- In June 2006 the Conservative government tabled a bill to abolish the long-gun registry.
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