The Boondoggle Continues by Don Meredith © 2000
(first published in the September 2000 Edmonton Sports
It's time for my annual rant against gun registration. If you think the recent Supreme Court ruling that upheld the federal Firearms Act (Bill C-68) should have cooled my jets, you don't understand the problem. All that ruling did was confirm that the federal government has the right to pass legislation regulating the ownership of firearms. It did not address the efficacy of the legislation or whether it is good or bad legislation. That will be determined by future court challenges.
What is interesting about the federal Firearms Act (Bill C-68, 1995) is that it would have received the support of the majority of the firearms owners if it were not for the registration system. Much of the bill deals with the criminal use of firearms, providing increased penalties for such use, and legitimate firearms owners support such penalties. But the registration system (consuming many times more tax dollars than ever predicted by either side) stuck in the craw of most owners because they realized it was fatally flawed from day one.
Why Gun Registration Will Fail
- It will not reduce crime. In fact, it will tie up our courts for years to come as legitimate owners challenge the law in court while criminals continue to use illegal firearms obtained from the usual illegal sources.
- It's too late "to close the barn door" or "push the toothpaste back in the tube." There are seven to twenty million (no one knows for sure) non-restricted firearms in this country. Only a fraction of those can or will be registered. In the meantime, many more firearms will enter the country illegally over a "soft" border where smuggling is an everyday occurrence. The present registration system cannot and won't begin to get a handle on this vast number of firearms. In order for it to do so would cost many times more tax dollars and still achieve no reduction in crime.
- The system depends on self registration. Yes, in order for this system to have a hope of working, each owner must self-register their firearms by January 1, 2003. Without proper verification by a firearms expert (the federal government is asking for volunteers to perform this eminence task), who will trust the information stored in the database? The police? The firearms owners? The criminal?
- It will be ignored by most enforcement agencies. Once officers in the field realize they cannot trust or effectively use the information in the database (as many already do), they will ignore it. The only time it will be used is when someone complains or the police discover firearms during another investigation. Many of these cases will be challenged in court, further tying up our judiciary and enforcement personnel, and achieving no reduction in crime.
- It is being forced down the throats of legitimate owners. Registration requires voluntary compliance it cannot work any other way. If you want people to volunteer for something you don't ignore their legitimate concerns. Registration ignores the legitimate concerns of gun owners. Gun owners aren't happy and will do the least required to comply. Many won't comply at all, challenging the government to take them to court and make them criminals.
- It will collapse under its own overwhelming, bureaucratic weight. Anyone who has looked at the system knows it cannot work. It was poorly planned and executed in a rush. No government will be willing to spend the money required to fix it because it will achieve no reduction in crime.
January 1, 2001
Although registration will fail, we are stuck with the licensing provisions of C-68. We firearms owners accepted the licensing concept when the first Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) was introduced in 1977. The new licences are merely replacements for that certificate. By January 1, 2001, all firearms owners must be licensed or hold a valid FAC. As of that date, you will require such a licence or certificate to purchase ammunition. You do not register your firearms when you apply for a licence.
If you do not already hold a licence or FAC, you must make an application for a Possession Only Licence (POL) or a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) soon. The federal government has streamlined the process, especially with regard to the POL. It has reduced the size of the application and what is required. You can pick up an application from any post office or download it from the Canadian Firearms Centre web site. The application fee has been reduced to $10, until October 16 when it rises to its full price of $60.
If you are not sure for which licence you should apply, I recommend you apply for the POL now, so you will be a legal owner on January 1. You can always upgrade to a PAL at a later date.
Although the boondoggle continues, it does involve the criminal code. If you are a firearms owner, make sure you understand your responsibilities.
Don's previous article on this subject: Gun Registration Designed for Failure
For subsequent articles Don has written on this subject, please go to The Firearms Dance, Down the Road to Failure, Why Gun Registration has Failed and Everybody's Talking.
© Don H. Meredith 2000 Any reproduction of this work, in whole or part, in any media is prohibited unless expressly granted by the author. For more information, see the copyright notice.