Darren Learns About the Long-Gun Registry

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?


  1. I’m not convinced of it’s usefulness and it’s clearly a waste of money.

    When [whatever] is outlawed, only outlaws will have [whatever], etc.

  2. This reminds me of a long-ago SNL sketch, riffing on a news item about a town somewhere in the southern U.S. that only allowed people to carry firearms — openly, not concealed — but (if I recall correctly) REQUIRED residents to own and carry a gun.

    In the sketch, folks were walking around with nuclear ICBMs strapped to their belts in giant holsters.

  3. I’m willing to be corrected on this but I think you’re wrong in stating “The Conservative Party of Canada has introduced Bill C-391, a private member’s bill, …” It’s either a private member’s bill (which it is) or it’s a government bill (which it isn’t). A private member’s bill may be supported by the Government members but that doesn’t make it a Government bill. The distinction between a private member’s bill and a government bill is important. Private members bills (and there are quite a few of them) go into a lottery to see which which actually make it to the floor for debate. If they do make it to the floor then the debate is significantly shorter. I can’t remember all the rules (if I ever knew them) but there’s something about having to put the bill to a vote but if people still want to speak to the bill then it is effectively killed. Incidentally, bills are numbered C- (for Commons) or S- (for the Senate) and then numbered. Government bills (introduced by a member of the Cabinet) are in the range 1-200; private member’s bills are number in the range 201 and up

    1. You’re almost certainly right. That said, the Conservative Party as a whole does support the elimination of the registry.

      1. Yup … but since they do, why don’t they “man up” and make the bill a Government bill and state that it is a measure of Confidence in the government? (That’s a rhetorical question since both of us know the answer .)

  4. Thanks for the information regarding the RCMP web site. I can’t believe they put up something so blatantly ignorant.
    Yes, the registry will inform them of law abiding citizens who own firearms. It WILL NOT inform them of criminals who do not have registered firearms. It would be extremely negligent of any officer to assume just because a person, vehicle, house does not show up on the registry, that officer is safe to proceed with the knowledge there are no firearms present.

    1. I think the registry is effective in at least giving the police leads. ex. The police find that the gun was registered and the owner reported it missing several days earlier. The police now know where to start looking. Without a registry, it would be considerably more difficult because you don’t even know where to start looking.

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