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Police Use Of The Gun Registry Exaggerated

That wacky "6,500 hits per day" figure.

The proponents of the Gun Registry often quote various (and varying) numbers of "hits" that the Firearms Centre database receives per day from police. Presumably each hit is an instance of an officer querying the database to obtain firearms information. This bolsters their position that the registry is a "valuable policing tool."

We've watched this useful figure grow from 2,000 per day in late 2004, up to 5,000 per day during the Dec 2005 federal election, then jump to 6,000 per day in early May 2006 as the Conservative government started to talk about dismatling the duck-gun Registry, and again get bumped to 6,500 per day as Auditor General Sheila Fraser released her damning report on the Gun Registry.

More recently, as a Bill to scrap the Long-gun registry wends its way through parliament (and bureaucrats desperately try to defend their comfy turf), we've seen ever-spiraling claims of 11,000 or even 14,000 hits-per-day! (so-claimed in the Toronto Star, Aug 25, 2010.) Wow! Does that handy number ever grow and grow! (Like some politicians' noses...)

From the information below, it would seem that very few of the "hits" on the Registry database are actually instances of a police officer looking for firearms information.


Frequently Asked Questions: Changes to the Firearms Program

Question 18 from Frequently Asked Questions: Changes to the Firearms Program on the website of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. (May 17, 2006)

Q18. How can you say that the gun registry is a useless criminal justice tool when the police use it 6,500 times per day?

A18. The "6,500 hits" figure for the Canadian Firearms Registry On-Line (CFRO) is misleading. Whenever police officers access the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) for any reason, such as for a simple address check, an automatic hit is generated with CFRO whether the information is desired or not. This is the case, for example, with the Toronto Police Service (5,000 officers), the Vancouver Police (1,400 officers), and the BC RCMP (5,000 officers).


Police Use Of The Gun Registry Exaggerated

The following is the results of various ATI (Access To Information) requests by MP Garry Breitkreuz on the subject of how many times the police actually query the Firearms database for firearms-related information. The original web page may be found here.

November 24, 2004 - At a Standing Committee On Justice meeting held on November 24, 2004, Garry Breitkreuz, MP asked Public Safety Minister Anne Mclellan the following question:

I want to follow up what my colleague was asking here. I didn't intend to do this, but when I talk to front line police officers, there's a real disconnect between what they tell me and what you are telling the committee today.

For example, this figure of 2,000 hits per day or 14,000 per week is very misleading. In actual fact—I don't know if you've been told Madam Minister—when a police officer accesses the CPIC system, I understand, very often it also searches the firearms registry automatically and he has no interest in what that has to say as far as the information he wants, but you count that as a hit to the firearms registry and it's included in those 2,000 times per day.

I have been unable, after several years of questioning, to find out exactly who and what information is being searched. That is a very misleading statistic.

[November 29, 2005 – We finally get an answer in response to our Access To Information Act Request – Canada Firearms Centre File: A-2005-0016]

ATI PAGE 000270- E-MAIL #1 DATED DECEMBER 6, 2004 – TO KEN MCCARTHY, REGISTRAR OF FIREARMS AND BEVERLY HOLLOWAY, OPERATIONS DIRECTORATE FROM JAMES DEACON, DIRECTOR OF POLICY:

“Can we differentiate between “automatic hits” and what is counted in our 2000 figure?”


ATI PAGE 000270- E-MAIL #2 DATED DECEMBER 6, 2004 – TO JAMES DEACON, DIRECTOR OF POLICY FROM KATHLEEN ROUSSEL, SENIOR COUNSEL:

“I think what is missing in the responses below is exactly what that automatic query gets you – as I understand it from RCMP CPIC services, it tells you that some info is returned from the CFRO but you don’t get access to exactly what that is without some extra button-punching.

I also understand that the 2000 hits we count come from this secondary search, whether done after an automatic “matching or independently.

[Section blanked-out under authority of ATI Act, section 23, Solicitor Client Privilege].”


ATI PAGE 000271- E-MAIL #3 DATED DECEMBER 3, 2004 – TO JAMES DEACON, DIRECTOR OF POLICY FROM KEN McCARTHY, REGISTRAR OF FIREARMS:

“In sum, CFRO is indeed automatically queried in many cases when police officers query CPIC.”


ATI PAGE 000271- E-MAIL #4 DATED DECEMBER 2, 2004 – TO KEN McCARTHY, REGISTRAR OF FIREARMS ‘ET AL’ FROM PIERRE RIOPEL, FIP COORDINATOR:

“MP Garry Breitkreuz is partially correct in his assertions that CFRO queries are generated automatically. This statement is however not true in all cases. While, it is confirmed that all queries done through the CIIDS in British Columbia does generate automatic CFRO query, it is unknown if all other provincial CIIDS users do the same. It is also unknown how many other police agencies querying CFRO through there local interface system automatically query the CFRO.


ATI PAGE 000272- E-MAIL #5 DATED DECEMBER 1, 2004 – TO KEN McCARTHY, REGISTRAR OF FIREARMS ‘ET AL’ FROM GINA NJOLSTAD-LALONDE, PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT, STATISTICS AND ANALYSIS:

“For many provinces, approx. 50% of the queries against the CFRO (by RCMP only) do come through the Computerized Integrated Dispatch System (CIIDS) as this query is set as a default in CIDS.

According to Jean-Paul St. Pierre, any police department using an interface to CPIC can have their system automatically queried against CFRO. According to both Jean-Paul and Mike Lavigne of the RCMP, there is no way to tell which agencies or how many queries.”


ATI PAGE 000272 E-MAIL #6 DATED NOVEMBER 30, 2004 – TO DIANE BOUDREAU, ACTING MANAGER, BUSINESS ANALYST FROM KEN McCARTHY, REGISTRAR OF FIREARMS:

“Jamie Deacon advised me that the Commissioner’s Office needs specific information relating to CFRO usage by police. Specifically, MP Garry Breitkreuz is alleging that our CFRO statistics (2000 hits per week) are misleading.

He argues that CFRO is automatically queried (intentionally or not) whenever a police officer checks CPIC. As such, police are not really using the system. Would you please confirm whether this is true (or not).

Can we safely say that these 2000 hits are intentional queries of the CFRO? Can we prove it?

Also can we find out the percentage of CFRO hits coming from police officers, versus other public agents. You should get Gina involved in this analysis.”


ATI PAGE 000321 - E-MAIL #7 DATED JUNE 6, 2005 –TO IRÈNE ARSENEAU, DIRECTOR, COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS FROM AND KEN McCARTHY, REGISTRAR OF FIREARMS FROM PIERRE RIOPEL, FIP COORDINATOR:

“I have followed up on the Ontario Stats and the reason why the CFRO query stats have gone up so dramatically is as follows:

Toronto Metro Telecommunications had requested a change in their Intergraph Dispatch System that would auto query all address responses that was returned from their records management system. The requested change was never fully researched and for some reason was implemented as an emergency maintenance issue. Toronto Metro Technical Security Branch was contacted and they stated they are going to remove this feature ASAP. The address query responses from CFRO are not being passed on to anyone. There is a privacy issue about this type of query. Note that the CFRO auto query of addresses is based on any valid address query response returned through their Intergraph System query.

This means that if a parking ticket had a valid address and was returned the Intergraph system, it would generate a CFRO address query.

There is nothing here and the Ontario stats should return to normal (4,000 to 5,000) queries per week in CFRO once the auto query through Intergraph is removed.”

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