Long-Gun Registry: Quebec Files Motion To Stop Destruction Of Records
QUEBEC - With the clock ticking down on the federal long-gun registry, the Quebec government has taken legal action to save its data.
The province announced Tuesday that it has filed a motion in Quebec Superior Court to block the federal government from destroying the registry information.
The Quebec government says it wants to maintain its own registry with its share of the records — but can't do it if the feds destroy the data, as promised, once its anti-registry bill becomes law.
Time is running out. The legislation is on the verge of being adopted in the Senate. So Quebec, as expected, is heading to court.
"The federal government turned a deaf ear to the repeated demands of Quebec with respect to the full preservation of the firearms registry," Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier said in a statement.
"It then refused to heed our request to transfer to Quebec the records ... for its citizens. We therefore have no other choice but to resort to the courts."
Quebec argues that the destruction of records is unconstitutional. It says that, in a federation, one level of government does not have the right to intentionally undermine the public policy choices of another.
The issue is particularly emotional in Quebec. The registry was the result of an intense lobbying campaign in the wake of the Polytechnique massacre, where 14 female students were gunned down in 1989 with a hunting rifle.
But detractors of the registry have long called it wasteful, and useless as a deterrent to crime.
The federal government has offered a variety of explanations for why it can't transfer the Quebec data to the provincial government.
It has cited concerns about the accuracy of what it calls out-of-date records. Finally, the Harper Tories have said they simply don't want a future federal government to use the records to revive the registry and described their refusal as a matter of principle.
What does this new bill on the gun registry do?
We keep hearing about scrapping the long-gun registry, but really what we're talking about is scrapping the requirement for people to register their rifles and shotguns - that's what Bill C-19 aims to do by making amendments to the Criminal Code and Firearms Act. Once passed, people will not have to register their non-restricted or non-prohibited firearms. It also provides for the destruction of existing records in the Canadian Firearms Registry for those firearms. <em>With files from CBC</em>
What exactly is the registry?
It's a centralized database overseen by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that links firearms with their licensed owners. It contains information about all three types of guns that must be registered - non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. (All firearms must be registered.) To register a firearm, you have to have a licence to possess it.
Does the bill make any changes to licensing requirements?
No. Canadian residents need a licence in order to possess and register a firearm or ammunition and that won't change. There are a couple of different kinds of licences because of various changes to laws and regulations over the years.
What are long guns?
There are three types of guns under Canadian law: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. Most common long guns - rifles and shotguns - are non-restricted but there are a few exceptions. A sawed-off shotgun, for example, is a prohibited firearm. A handgun is an example of a restricted firearm. Different regulations apply to different classifications of firearms.
How many guns are we talking about?
As of September 2011, there were about 7.8 million registered guns. Of those, 7.1 million are non-restricted firearms.
Why does the government want to get rid of the long-gun registry?
The government says it is wasteful and ineffective at reducing crime and targets law-abiding gun owners instead of criminals, who don't register their firearms.
Who wants to keep it?
Police and victims' groups are big supporters of the registry. Police say the database helps them evaluate a potential safety threat when they pull a vehicle over or are called to a residence. They also say it helps support police investigations because the registry can help determine if a gun was stolen, illegally imported, acquired or manufactured. This year, the RCMP says police agencies accessed it on average more than 17,000 times a day.
When will the registry cease to exist?
The government has passed the legislation and the registry no longer exists. Except for in Quebec, where an ongoing court challenge means the owners must still register their guns in the province.
Why does the government want to destroy the records?
The government is doing this to ensure that no future non-Conservative government can recreate the registry. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has also made it clear that if any province wants to set up its own registry it would get no help from the federal government. The Conservatives are so fundamentally opposed to the existence of the records, because they say they focus on law-abiding citizens instead of criminals, that they don't want them available for anyone to use.
How much does the registry cost?
The registry cost more than $1 billion to set up in 1995 and the cost was the source of much controversy. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said on Oct. 25 that the government's best estimate is that it costs about $22 million a year to operate. That's the entire registry, not just the long-gun portion, but he noted most of the guns in the registry are long guns. He said he didn't know how much money scrapping the requirement to register long guns would save the government. Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner says there are also "hidden costs" that are borne by provincial and municipal police agencies to enforce the registry.