Gun Ledgers 'Unauthorized,' Toews Tells RCMP

CBC  |  Posted: 05/08/2012 7:19 pm Updated: 05/10/2012 6:38 pm


Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is lashing out at provincial officials who he says are collecting unauthorized information on long-gun buyers, threatening to use legislation to make them stop.


In a letter to RCMP Commissioner Robert Paulson that was copied to all provincial chief firearms officers, Toews said the firearms officers "are attempting to collect point of sale data that they are no longer authorized to collect pursuant to Bill C-19 [the bill to end the long-gun registry]."


"To be clear, the Firearms Act neither authorizes this activity, nor any other measures that could facilitate the creation of a provincial long-gun registry," Toews wrote in the letter.


Firearms groups have been complaining Ontario gun vendors are still collecting personal information about legal purchases in ledgers, calling the books a way to create a "back-door" registry.


Ontario Provincial Police Supt. Chris Wyatt, the province's chief firearms officer, said last week the ledgers aren't new.


"Ledgers existed for decades before the long-gun registry," Wyatt told host Evan Solomon on CBC's Power & Politics Thursday. "It's in the interests of public safety to ensure that firearms aren't being sold to criminals or persons who are prohibited from having firearms."


The ledgers list the make, model and serial number of the gun sold, as well as the name and firearms licence number of the purchaser.


There was also a column in the ledgers to record the registration certificate number from the federal firearms registry, but this information will no longer exist with the end of the registry.


The CFOs have argued federal law requiring firearms vendors to record the information did not change with the passage of the Harper government's legislation to abolish the federal long-gun registry last month, but Toews' letter casts doubt on that argument.


Toews warns RCMP not to help with collection


Toews warned the RCMP and the Canadian Firearms Program not to help the provinces collect information from gun owners, unless it's "expressly required" by provincial law.


"The position of the federal government, as dictated by the will of Canadians, is that registration of long guns is wasteful and ineffective," he said.


"If it comes to your attention that CFOs are interpreting the Firearms Act as a basis for unauthorized data collection, please advise me immediately. I am prepared to consider all legislative and regulatory measures necessary to give effect to the will of Canadians."


C-19 became law last month. The new law requires the RCMP to delete all the data in the registry, and requires each provincial firearms office to destroy records under its control, which the province of Quebec is fighting in court so it can keep the records on Quebecers.


Wyatt says that, based on legal advice his office has received, he will be destroying only the records of the registration certificate.


Related on HuffPost:

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  • 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.

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