This is the second in a series of blog posts in which, well, I learn about things. Previously, I learned about the WNBA.
Yesterday I was invited to a Facebook group entitled “Save the Rifle Registry. No to C-391”. That made me realize how little I actually knew about the Canadian Firearms Registry. I don’t have enough information to know whether it’s a good thing or not. So, let’s learn.
What is the Firearms Registry?
Established in 1996, it’s a program that requires the registration of all firearms in Canada. Interested in getting a gun? According to Wikipedia:
Any person wishing to obtain a firearm must first acquire a Possession and Acquisition Licence or PAL. 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
How do you register firearms?
You can do it online, apparently. I can’t get past the first step, as I don’t have any firearms license numbers handy, but it looks straightforward.
Why require citizens to register their firearms?
The big argument that I see again and again is that the registry is a useful asset for police. Police across the country apparently query (PDF) the database more than 13,000 times a week. That number sounds ridiculously high to me (though a CBC article claims it’s used 6,500 times a day), but the RCMP’s site makes similar claims about office safety: “Without a firearms registry, when police are called to a residence or stop a vehicle, they would have to take the word of the occupant whether firearms are present or have been surrendered.”
How much does the registry cost?
This is the big knock against the program. By 2004, eight years after its inception, the total program costs had risen to over $2 billion. Annual operating costs are reportedly anywhere from $15 to $80 million. The Conservative Party of Canada has introduced Bill C-391, a private member’s bill, which aims to eliminate the program. The Conservatives argue that the money spent on the registry could be more effectively spent elsewhere in law enforcement.
The other question, which I was unable to answer, is ‘what percentage of firearms-related crimes involve an unregistered gun?”
So where does that leave us? It’s an expensive but apparently useful program. To be honest, I’m no closer to forming a strong opinion on this one. What do you think?