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Beartooth Regular
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1.6 million shun gun registry

By DANIEL LEBLANC
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

POSTED AT 2:39 AM EDT Tuesday, Jul. 1, 2003

Ottawa — The grace period to register rifles and other long firearms ended yesterday with about 1.6 million shotguns and rifles — about one of every five such weapons in the country — still outside of the national database.

But the federal government is not rushing to track down and charge people with unregistered long weapons.

Despite being past the deadline, Canadians will not face punishment if they voluntarily contact the Canadian Firearms Centre to register a weapon in the coming weeks.

They run the risk of a fine or jail sentence only if they are caught by police with an unregistered weapon.

Overall, about 6.3 million firearms are registered with the Canadian Firearms Centre, short of the government's estimate of 7.9 million long firearms in Canada.

In addition, Ottawa estimates there are 2.3 million firearms owners in Canada, of which about 200,000 have not signed up for a licence.

Critics of the registry say the law will make criminals out of otherwise law-abiding gun owners.

Canadian Alliance MP Garry Breitkreuz said the huge number of unregistered weapons and unlicensed gun owners is a sign of the system's failure. He urged Ottawa to scrap the costly registry, which requires all gun owners to get a licence and register their firearms.

"[This] creates a whole new class of paper criminals in this country," he said.

Mr. Breitkreuz said he is not reassured by Ottawa's promise that no one will be prosecuted simply for the late registration of a firearm.

"This verbal amnesty makes a mockery of the Criminal Code," he said.

David Austin of the Canadian Firearms Centre said Canadians will not be punished for the late registration of a firearm, but that they are taking a risk in waiting too long.

"In terms of an individual who is outside the system, we'd recommend that they immediately apply," he said.

"If they send in an application tomorrow and encounter a police officer the next day, it's up to the police officer whether he is going to take that into account. But it's better to have an application in."

There was a last-minute surge of people registering long firearms yesterday. The influx of electronic registrations even slowed down the Canadian Firearms Centre's Web site.

The registry was initially estimated by the Liberal government in 1995 to cost $2-million, after licensing fees were collected, but is now pegged to cost $1-billion by 2005. The Canadian Alliance said the money should have been used to increase the number of police officers in the country.

The deadline for gun owners to register their long firearms had been extended from Jan. 1.

(Handgun registration has been mandatory since 1934, and regulations were tightened in 1977 to restrict handgun possession and prohibit automatic and other heavy weapons and such items as silencers.

The pressure group Coalition for Gun Control estimates there are about one million handguns in Canada.)

The law allows police to charge first-time offenders, who have not registered long guns under the Firearms Act, and penalties could result in a $2,000 fine or six months in jail. Or police may lay Criminal Code weapons charges of illegal possession, which carry tougher penalties of up to 10 years in jail.

However, it is not clear who will face prosecution for failing to register. British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have announced that they will not prosecute people who fail to register rifles or shotguns.

Korean War veteran Oscar Lacombe, 74, of Edmonton, tried to get charged for failing to register his weapon, but police decided to use the Criminal Code rather than the Firearms Act.

The former sergeant-at-arms of the Alberta Legislature carried his unregistered .22-calibre rifle to the legislature in January, pleading with police to arrest him. He wanted to challenge the Firearms Act to the Supreme Court of Canada.






© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
 

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Beartooth Regular
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7,776 Posts
Hi, Gents:
The government's numbers are too low by half at least. Previous and more realistic surveys put the number of gun owners at around 7 million and the number of guns at 20 million. Import records support these estimates. There's 1 million Indians in Canada and they, with the support of the Grand Chiefs, are refusing to register and are challenging the registry in court.

Newfoundland & Labrador and the Territories aren't prosecuting non-registration either. That leaves Quebec (of course), Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick in.

Bye
Jack
 
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