A recent vote in the House of Commons has brought us one step backwards in controlling the millions of firearms in this country and one step closer to supporting a “free” gun culture.
On Wednesday, Bill C-391 passed through second reading with a vote of 164-137, supported by 18 Liberals and New Democrats. Bill C-391 would eliminate the controversial, ten-year-old Canadian Firearms Registry, meaning that data on the seven million shotguns and rifles recorded in the registry would be destroyed.
No one can deny the fact that this Registry has come at a massive cost to taxpayers, even though the initial price tag seemed cheap. In 1995, the government announced that the registry would cost only $2 million for taxpayers, because registration fees would cover the majority of the total $119 million cost. However, in 2002, the government revealed that the costs of implementation had risen to $629 million and would rise to $1 billion by 2005. In 2004, CBC’s French news service claimed that costs had exceeded $2 billion.
Opponents claim that the Registry is an inefficient waste of money for two main reasons. First, it subjects people to an arduous registration process. Secondly, the registry doesn’t stop criminals, who are the reason for its existence, from acquiring guns without registering them. All the Registry does, critics say, is use up precious taxpayer dollars and make life difficult for lawful gun owners.
The Registry is not without its problems and inefficiencies &- what government program is &- but scrapping the registry at this point won’t magically bring back the $2 billion that has already been spent. It doesn’t mean the entire program is worthless. The registry helps police track guns, and helps them determine whether a gun is in the possession of its rightful owner. Police can also use the Registry in the course of an investigation or during an emergency response to assess the level of risk.
The Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have stood firmly behind the Registry. Moreover, a report prepared by the RCMP this week points out that the number of police officers using the Registry jumped last year.
A key part of the report states that the Registry only cost $8.4 million last year, which is a mere one-third of what was budgeted. This means that that the registry is becoming more efficient and less expensive, thus diluting the main criticism from its skeptics.
Although the registry is not a complete solution to gun crime, it does make a difference, and it’s becoming more efficient as time goes on. The only way that the $2 billion dollars spent would truly become a complete waste of money is if the registry is scrapped. Having passed second reading, this unfortunately may be the case.