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The Real Gun Problem in Canada
06/01/2003

There has been a lot of controversy recently about the federal government's gun-registry system. If even a portion of the claims in today's Ezra Levant column are true, then it would be fair to call this attempt a fiasco. Here are some excerpts:

  • The government admits it registered 718,414 guns without serial numbers. That means either the bureaucrats forgot to write them down, or the guns didn't have serial numbers in the first place. That's as useless as registering a vehicle simply as "a blue Ford Explorer."
  • To these gun owners, the government has sent little stickers with made-up "serial numbers" on them, that gun owners are supposed to stick on their guns. And everybody at the gun registry is praying that criminals who steal those guns won't peel off the stickers.
  • Some 222,911 guns were registered with the same make and serial number as other guns. That's not just useless -- it's dangerous. If someone else with a "blue Ford Explorer" is involved in a hit and run, you'll be the one getting a knock on the door by the RCMP.
  • Out of 4,114,624 gun registration certificates, 3,235,647 had blank or missing entries -- but the bureaucrats issued them anyways.
  • In the beginning, the government's firearms licences had photographs on them - just like driver's licences do. But after hundreds of gun owners were sent licences with someone else's photo on them, the government decided to scrap photos on the licences altogether, rather than fix the problem.

Clearly, the level of incompetence here is higher than normal. So is the cost.

The title of Levant's column was "Misplaced Priority". Now, Levant was probably thinking of it in a different way than I am, but as someone in favour of gun control, I too feel that this gun registry idea has been handled quite poorly and represents somewhat of a misplaced priority, indeed.

Here in Toronto we have had an ongoing and growing problem with gun violence. (See also here.) While I feel that the federal government is right to take on the issue of gun violence, they have gone about it in ways that are less direct and less effective at the same time that they are overly costly.

The first step would be to address Canada's dangerously porous border with the United States. While most of the media hype tends to be about terrorists crossing into America from Canada -- reports which are usually false -- many more deaths can be attributed to the flow of illegal guns into Canada from the United States.

U.S. Said Responsible for Guns in Canada

Canadian police say that half the handguns in Canada are smuggled into the country from the United States, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported Nov. 26.

"The Americans lecture us on our immigration and refugee policies and whatever else strikes their fancy, and yet if you look at the toll that is being taken on Canadian streets in terms of guns that come in from the United States, you wonder why our interests are not being strongly articulated," said Wendy Cukier, president of the Coalition for Gun Control in Canada.

In Canada, the number of people trying to smuggle in guns is rising rapidly. According to Canadian customs agents, 807 weapons were seized as of July 23 this year at Ontario crossings, compared with 956 in all of 2001.

Part of the problem is that only 3 percent of vehicles are searched at the border. Furthermore, individuals found with firearms are only fined $500 for each gun seized.

The Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Police Boards have passed resolutions questioning the impact of an open border. Ontario's Public Safety minister, Robert Runciman, plans to tackle the smuggling issue in Washington, D.C., later this year. But he acknowledges that U.S. views on gun ownership pose a "challenge."

This is a serious problem. If addressed, it could probably do much more to reduce gun crime in Canadian cities than our registry ever will. Of course, this issue is rarely mentioned and seems to receive no attention from our governments.

In today's article, I find myself agreeing with people that normally drive me nuts. Here's another example. I agree with Mel Lastman that a powerful tool to fighting gun violence would be stricter penalties for crimes involving firearms.


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