Q&A: Scrapping the gun registry

Global News : Thursday, October 27, 2011 3:18 PM

The Quebec legislature has passed the fourth motion in five years to ask Ottawa to keep data from the federal long-gun registry when it is destroyed. Why should Canadians be concerned with the registry, and what happens now? Global News talks with gun policy expert Gary Mauser.

Mauser is professor emeritus, in the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies and the Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.

He has written two books and over 30 academic publications in criminology, economics, business, and political science. Professor Mauser has testified on criminal justice issues before the Supreme Court of Canada, the Canadian Parliament and the Senate of Canada. His recent academic publications can be found at http://papers.ssrn.com.

1. How can guns still be traced without the long-gun registry?

The police have several sources of information that enables them to keep track of firearms. Firearms licensing ensures that police know who is legal to own firearms. As well, the police have CPIC, the National Information Centre, registries of restricted and prohibited long guns and handguns, and several other local or provincial databases maintained by the RCMP and other police forces that just keep growing.

2. What do gun owners need to know about if registry is scrapped?

Only the long-gun registry is being scrapped. The handgun registry will remain. All firearm owners will still be required to get and keep a licence.

3. What are the risks associated with keeping the registry?

The registry misleads the police into treating law-abiding citizens as if they were criminals. The registry is expensive to run and solid research has shown that it has not been effective in reducing criminal violence. ATI requests show that the registry has been accessed inappropriately over 400 times by police employees, occasionally for criminal purposes.

The registry gave the police false confidence. Since no more than half of all guns in Canada were registered, the police could not rely upon it to identify a residence with an unregistered gun.

The focus should be on those who shouldn’t have guns, not those who have passed criminal record checks and demonstrated through safe use that they pose no threat to public safety

4. What are the risks associated with scrapping the registry?

Some of the information might have been useful in solving crimes. In any case, long guns are infrequently used in criminal violence and those that are almost all unregistered. According to police statistics, less than 8% of firearms involved in murder are in the registry, and, at most, 16% of “crime guns” were ever registered.

Now the police have the money to create a database that tracks people who shouldn’t have guns, those who have committed crimes with firearms, who have been charged with domestic violence, or for other reasons have been ruled ineligible and have been turned down for a firearms licence.

5. What happens to all the data in the registry if it is scrapped?

The data is to be destroyed. Since the data contain so many errors, and isn’t useful, this is wise. The RCMP reported that 42% of the records had errors. Over 200,000 records have the same serial numbers as stolen guns, with 4,438 actually being re-registered after being reported stolen. According to the Supreme Court, the constitution does not give provinces the power to create their own firearm registries.

6. How does the gun registry in Canada compare to gun control policies in other countries?

Canada is in the middle of the pack. Some European countries register long guns, others do not. In the United States, few states require long guns to be registered. New Zealand abandoned their long-gun registry in the 1970s; succeeding governments have not reversed that decision. Long guns are registered in both Australia and the United Kingdom.

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For further information, contact:

Tony Bernardo
Canadian Institute for Legislative Action
905-571-2150, abernardo343@rogers

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