MONTREAL - The federal long-gun registry might die — but it's not happening today.
A Quebec court has stepped in and ordered a delay in the destruction of registry data from that province, following a request by the Quebec government.
The court has granted the delay until further motions are argued in court next week.
The legal battle is playing out in Montreal while, in Ottawa, legislation to kill the registry has sailed through the Senate and is set to receive royal assent today.
The feds say they plan to begin the process of deleting the registry data immediately. A federal lawyer told the court that royal assent takes effect at midnight.
Now Quebec can keep up the fight in court next week to save the information. It wants the data to create its own registry.
It argues that it's unconstitutional for the federal government to destroy the information, if it means thwarting the public policy of another level of government.
The registry battle has been particularly emotional in Quebec, which was the epicentre of the national gun-control movement after the Polytechnique massacre of 1989.
The Quebec government has never accepted the view of registry critics, like the Harper Tories, who call the measure useless in deterring violent crime.
The court order today applies only to data from Quebec. Information from other provinces is still subject to destruction — although a government lawyer says that deletion process won't be so easy, and might actually take months.
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>
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.
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.
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.
As of September 2011, there were about 7.8 million registered guns. Of those, 7.1 million are non-restricted firearms.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.