Canadian Gun Law Offers Example for U.S.
by Dr. Michael S. Brown
in the gun control debate often compare the United States with other countries.
Some countries, like England and Japan have virtually no legal gun
ownership, so comparisons are of limited value.
Comparing Canada with the United States is much more useful.
Most Americans know that Canada has a low crime rate and relatively
strict gun control laws. What few people realize is that the number of guns per
capita is roughly similar.
really knows how many guns exist in either country, but one estimate for Canada
is 21 million guns owned by a population of 30 million people.
In the United States, we have over 200 million guns and a population of
the Liberal Party pushed through a new gun control measure known as The Firearms
Act (C-68) that will force Canadian gun owners to register themselves and their
firearms of all types. At the same
time, handguns suitable for self defense, those with a barrel less than 4.1
inches in length and those of .32 caliber or less were banned.
Since handguns have been registered since 1934, it was felt that this ban
would have a good chance of being effective.
C-68 is being phased in gradually, with mandatory licensing of gun owners
required by January 1, 2001. All
firearms must be individually registered by January 2, 2003.
for the Liberal Party, there have been serious problems with implementation of
the new system, which is known as the registry.
registry is far over budget and way behind in processing the applications. The
original budget was $85 million over 5 years, but $300 million has already been
spent and annual costs of $60 million have been projected by the Department of
Justice. Detractors of the program
expect this to go much higher. More
and more money is being diverted from important law enforcement activities.
Tight budgets combined with the unpopular law are affecting police morale
and there is concern that crime might actually increase as a result of C-68.
with the new law has been poor. A
large portion of gun owners say they have no intention of registering their guns
and predictably, criminals are not registering their guns at all.
Officials say that black market gun trafficking is thriving.
Since the total number of guns in Canada is unknown, it will be
impossible to determine how effective the system is.
Any registration system must be accurate if it is going to be useful to
law enforcement officers, but various reports coming from within the Justice
Dept. indicate an error rate between 20 and 100 percent in the current database.
targeting honest gun owners, the government has alienated millions of citizens
who would otherwise be motivated to help the police do their job.
Law enforcement at the local level may actually become more difficult.
Ironically, polls show that most front line law enforcement officers do
not support the gun registry. This
may have been the reason for the creation of special “Firearms Officers” in
Liberal Party has been further embarrassed by proof that they falsified crime
statistics from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in order to promote the
passage of C-68. In a letter to the
Minister of Justice, the Commissioner of the RCMP complained that information
his agency had supplied to the Ministry regarding crime in 1993 had been
misinterpreted to greatly overstate the amount of firearms crime in Canada.
For example, the Ministry of Justice claimed that firearms had been
involved in 623 violent crimes, while the true figure was only 73.
Furthermore, the RCMP investigated 333 homicides that year and only 6
involved a firearm, another indication that criminal misuse of firearms was not
the major problem that the Liberal Party politicians claimed.
most damaging to gun control efforts was the admission by the Minister of
Justice that he could not identify any crimes that had been solved because of
Canada’s previous sixty four years of handgun registration.
important political forces are now arrayed against the Liberal Party on this
issue. A majority of the Provincial Governments are opposed to the new law and
are fighting it in the courts. The
Canadian Police Association has called for a full review of the law and three of
Canada’s major political parties have announced their opposition.
Political observers feel that the Liberal Party will suffer significant
losses in the next elections.
are many interesting similarities with gun control efforts in the United States.
Our Justice Department has been caught fudging statistics on the success
of the Brady Bill. Police chiefs
promote gun control which rank and file officers do not support and feisty gun
owners vow civil disobedience.
politicians would do well to observe these events North of the border.
Calling for gun control in the name of public safety is an easy way to
generate media attention. Administering real gun control is likely to be a
Michael S. Brown
Reasons Why Police Oppose Gun Registration, Garry Breitkreuz, MP
Registry, National Post
Murray’s Letter to Justice Dept.
Control Revisited, Ted White, MP
past newsletters > April 99
Police Association, meeting of August 27, 1999
> Media Releases
Mark, by Karen Selick 1995
to Justice Minister Allan Rock by Garry Breitkreuz, MP
News Releases of 5-9-95, 5-17-96 and letter of 3-11-99
Available from: Breitkreuz.G@parl.gc.ca
Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist in Vancouver, WA who moderates a
large email list for discussion of gun issues in Washington State. You can reach
the rest of his archive here.
He may be reached at email@example.com