Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Harper Scraps the Long-Gun Registry!

More guns in Canada now, but fewer owners: RCMP
By Jeff Davis
Postmedia News, Jan 23, 2012
Canadians own more than half a million more firearms than they did in 2006, according to the 2010 annual report from the RCMP’s Canadian Firearms Program.
But while federal firearms data shows that the number of registered gun owners in Canada is dropping, the arsenal of each is getting bigger and bigger.
But many gun owners — and a Tory MP — say the government’s estimates are off the mark, and that there may be twice as many firearms, and firearms owners, in Canada as the RCMP says. They say many Canadian gun owners are “going underground,” due to fears they will face increased police scrutiny and the seizure of their weapons.
In 2006, there were a total of 7,102,466 firearms registered in Canada. By 2010, this number had grown to 7,646,699, an increase of 544,233, or over 100,000 per year.
However, between 2006 and 2010, the number of licensed gun owners has dropped from 1,908,011 to 1,848,000. This represents a decrease of 60,011, or about 12,000 per year for five years.
As such, each registered gun owner in Canada had an average of 4.14 guns in 2010, up from 3.72 guns per registered owner in 2006.
Many Canadians, however, say that there are many more guns and gun owners in Canada than the RCMP says.
Garry Breitkreuz is the Tory MP who drafted the legislation to repeal the long-gun registry currently before the House. He said his own independent research — gleaned from comparing Canada’s firearms import and export data — has shown there are between 16.5 and 21 million guns in Canada.
He said the dwindling number of registered firearms owners is perhaps due to a disinterest in hunting among younger Canadians.
“There is a slow decline in the number of people hunting,” he said. “The registry has discouraged people from getting involved.”
Canadian Shooting Sports Association executive director Tony Bernardo agreed the RCMP’s estimates on the number of guns in Canada is way off.
“There are still seven, eight, nine, 10 million guns out there that are not in (the)system, and never were in the system,” he said.
Allister Muir, a spokesman for the Canadian Unlicensed Firearms Owners Association, said he has never held a firearms licence, but owns seven guns.
Muir said he thinks there are between 3.3 and four million firearms owners in Canada — registered or otherwise — and between 14 and 21 million guns.
He said he has never been charged by the RCMP, despite his best efforts at provocation, such as a cross-country tour to protest the gun registry. Due in part to weak incentives to register, he said, millions of gun owners have simply chosen not to inform the government of their arsenals.
Reached at his home in Stellarton, N.S., Muir said that back in 1995 when the long-gun registry came into force, many gun owners simply chose not to opt in. Muir said he thinks there are around two million Canadians who, like himself, have chosen not to register.
“The original belief was that this registration was about confiscation, and that was the driving force,” he said.
Muir said there are now more than 300,000 firearms licences that have lapsed and were not renewed. The licences are supposed to be renewed every five years.
He said he thinks the risk of being slapped with a trumped up criminal firearms charge is much higher for registered owners, so many shooters choose to keep a lower profile.
“And a lot of people are simply going underground right at this point,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder to determine whether this is an issue of lower ownership or hidden ownership.”
Bernardo estimates there are 330,000 expired firearms licences in Canada, which he said is mostly people who have had enough of the registry.
“Most of them consciously opted out, and said, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore,’” he said. “This is the government’s elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.”
RCMP to seize more ‘scary-looking’ guns before registry dies
By Jeff Davis
Postmedia News Jan 6, 2012
With the firearms registry on death’s door, the RCMP is using what little time remains to reclassify and seize certain scary-looking guns from the hands of Canadian firearms owners.
Undated police handout photo of weapons, cash and paraphernalia seized in a Dec. 12, 2007 raid of a residence in Kelowna by a Manitoba Integrated Organized Task Force Investigation.

Among the guns being seized is a small-calibre varmint rifle called the Armi Jager AP80. Like many non-restricted rifles, it is semi-automatic and fires the .22-calibre bullet, the smallest and weakest used in any long gun.
The AP80 has been singled out because it looks too much like the infamous AK-47 assault rifle, although it shares no parts or technical similarities with that infamous battle rifle.
On Dec. 20, the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program — the office charged with administering gun control regulations in Canada — served hundreds of registered firearms owners with a “notice of revocation.”
“This notice is to inform you that the firearm registration certificates indicated below have been revoked,” says the letter, obtained by Postmedia News. “You have 30 days to deliver your firearms to a peace officer, firearms officer . . . or to otherwise lawfully dispose of them.”
The letter says the AP80 was “incorrectly registered” in the past, and is being banned because it is now considered a member of the AK-47 family.
“The above mention firearm is prohibited as a variant of the design of the firearm commonly known as the AK-47 rifle,” the letter says.
Until Dec. 20, the AP80 was classified as a non-restricted firearm, the most lightly controlled category of firearms in Canada. It has now been moved to the most tightly controlled category: the prohibited firearms list.
As a result, the AP80 can now be owned or used only by people possessing rare “grandfathered” prohibited licences.
The RCMP have also issued a notice of revocation for the Walther G22 rifle on Dec. 30. This gun, also a .22-calibre semi-automatic, was prohibited because it has a removable “bullpup” style shoulder stock.
The Walther G22 vaguely resembles the Beretta Storm carbine, used in the Dawson College shootings.
The letters say nothing about compensating gun owners for the seizures.
Ottawa firearms lawyer Solomon Friedman says the consequences could be severe for any owners who don’t comply with the confiscation notice.
“If you don’t surrender this without compensation, the RCMP can come to your home, seize it and charge you with possession of a prohibited firearm,” he said.
Friedman says some owners of the AP80 are considering challenging the changes in court.
Under current firearms law, bureaucrats at the Canadian Firearms Program can reclassify any firearm through orders in council. Such classifications are done without parliamentary input or oversight.
Friedman said this confiscation effort contradicts the spirit of Bill C-19, the Harper government’s legislation that will relax gun control, which is currently before the House. He noted the RCMP served their letters of confiscation while MPs were away on holidays.
Moving the firearms into higher classification brackets means those owners who are allowed to have them will have to keep their weapons registered even after the Harper government’s firearms law passes.
By changing classifications now, the RCMP will retain records of ownership even after the long-gun-registry data is destroyed.
Friedman says activist bureaucrats at the Canadian Firearms Program are using what little time remains to move more firearms into the restricted and prohibited categories, for which registration will remain necessary.
“Remember, once (the) gun registry is eliminated, the RCMP will lose their ability to identify, target and harass law-abiding owners of non-restricted firearms,” he said. “They only took notice of (the AP80) when the gun registry is in its death throes.”
Friedman says there is a broader movement at the Canadian Firearms Program to seize small-calibre rifles that are dressed up to look like assault weapons.
They include .22-calibre semi-automatics made to resemble guns such as the M-16 assault rifle and MP5 submachine-gun used by police and army.
Quebec launches legal battle to save long-gun registry
By Kevin Dougherty
Postmedia News, Dec 13, 2011
QUEBEC – Quebec’s Public Security Minister Robert Dutil announced Tuesday that the province will go to court to keep the Quebec portion of the federal long-gun registry in service.
Ottawa’s Bill C-19 would abolish the federal registry.
“Quebec believes a system of registering weapons is essential in crime prevention,” Dutil told reporters at a news conference, also attended by representatives of Quebec police forces, their unions, crime experts and crime victims.
In the event Quebec wins its court battle and gets its hands on the gun records, Quebec would then adopt a bill to create its own arms registry.
The Liberals established the gun registry in the mid-1990s but its origins date back to December 1989, when Marc Lepine walked into the engineering school of the University of Montreal with a semi-automatic rifle and shot 28 people, killing 14. He then took his own life.
Dutil noted that 2,561 weapons were ordered seized across the province during the past year out of concerns for the safety of the owner or another person.
Bill C-19 proposes that the arms registry be not only abolished but that all the records will be destroyed.
Dutil made his case for preserving the registry at House of Commons hearings on Bill C-19 in Ottawa, but his federal counterpart, Vic Toews, has said plans to destroy the registry would go ahead.
The long-gun registry has long been a political hot button — wildly unpopular in much of the West and in rural Canada but enjoying broad support in Quebec. Advocates have argued it’s a much-needed tool for police to keep Canadian communities safe while critics call it a costly intrusion into the lives of law-abiding gun-owners.
The Conservatives introduced Bill C-19 in October.
With their majority in both the Commons and the Senate, the Tories now have the power to ensure the bill will be passed and that the long-gun registry will be abolished.
A year ago, the minority Conservative government attempted to repeal the long-gun registry through a private member’s bill introduced by Tory MP Candice Hoeppner.
That bill was narrowly defeated once the Liberals whipped all their MPs to vote as a block against it, and when some NDP MPs who had opposed the registry previously changed their votes to help keep it alive.
During the spring election campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to introduce legislation if re-elected to kill the registry.
“We must stop targeting law-abiding gun owners, and instead focus our resources on real criminals,” he said in a statement while campaigning in April.
The RCMP has argued it’s an important tool used by police to keep track of firearms.
The RCMP says the registry costs about $4-million to run but it was plagued by cost overruns when it was being launched in 2002. Then-auditor general Sheila Fraser pegged the costs at $1-billion.
Tim Harper: Conservatives get set to kill off an old friend — the long-gun registry
Tim Harper
October 20, 2011
It’s been often toxic, sometimes abusive, but the volatile relationship between the Conservatives and the long-gun registry has endured for 15 years.
But it will be shortly ending.
The Conservatives have signaled they will introduce legislation to abolish the registry, fulfilling a campaign promise — in fact, a promise its predecessor party first made in 1997.
They are finding, however, that breaking up is hard to do because over the years the registry has been a stalwart friend, a gift that kept on giving.
They have used the “Liberal” registry to raise funds and create division in opposition parties.
It has been their perfect wedge issue, a blunt instrument with which to club their opponents in Ottawa, an issue used to try to fatally finish the Liberal party and wound rural New Democrats right in their own backyard.
They have used it to rally their base and lash out at “Toronto elites.”
Even now, with their majority, they still taunt New Democrats about changing their position on the registry in the last Parliament and they seek donations to help them kill the registry, even though they need no help at all.
When a private member’s bill that would have killed the registry narrowly failed last year, some in the then-minority government immediately saw a huge upside.
They may have lost that battle, but it was a way to win the war and use it as leverage on their way to a majority government.
The Liberals, under Michael Ignatieff, forced his caucus to back the registry en masse, saving it for the time being, but hurting some political careers in the process.
The Liberal carnage in May, when the party lost 43 seats, could hardly be blamed on the registry.
But Mark Holland in Ajax-Pickering, Larry Bagnell in the Yukon and Anthony Rota in northern Ontario could at least partially blame their defeat on their support of the registry.
The Conservatives also aggressively targeted the NDP Six, a half-dozen largely rural MPs who switched their position on the registry, under a free vote allowed by then leader Jack Layton.
Their last minute conversions in support of the registry swung the vote, but the Conservatives vowed they would be punished for their duplicity by voters in their ridings.
Manitoba Conservative Candice Hoeppner took the battle to their ridings, holding town halls to preach the evils of a gun registry.
But then a funny thing happened.
The six — Charlie Angus, Malcolm Allen, Glenn Thibeault, Peter Stoffer, Claude Gravelle and Carol Hughes — were all re-elected.
Four were returned to Ottawa with enhanced pluralities.
No government measure of the past two decades has caused more cumulative emotion, sparked more tears or anger.
The day of reckoning is at hand, to be sure, but like a cat with a mouse, the government wants to torture and toy with the registry before finally moving in for the kill.
The bill is on the government order paper and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews will introduce the needed amendments to the pertinent federal acts to kill it.
The Conservative majority in the House of Commons and the Senate will ensure its demise.
A spokesperson for Toews will only say it will be introduced “soon.’’
The death of the long-gun registry was really signaled years ago when former auditor-general Sheila Fraser pegged its cost at more than $1 billion.
No pleas from police forces or the victims of gun crime in this country could sway a mindset that it had become a huge boondoggle.
“The party I lead will not rest until the day it is abolished,’’ Harper said a year ago.
He will get there. It was a campaign promise.
But sometimes it’s hard to walk away from a friend.