Gun Registry: Ontario Vows To Keep Collecting Data On Who Buys Guns

CP  |  By Posted: Updated: 05/11/2012 3:55 pm

OTTAWA - Ontario won't create a provincial gun registry, but it does want stores to keep records of who buys guns, despite federal objections, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Friday.

"We're not going to adopt a long-gun registry here in Ontario," McGuinty said after touring a local website development company.

"But we will maintain a practice that's been in place since 1978."

Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews sent a letter Tuesday to all provincial chief firearms officers, telling them the collection of point-of-sale data is no longer authorized under the Firearms Act.

He asked the RCMP to notify him "immediately" if they learn that chief firearms officers are engaged in "unauthorized data collection."

But Ontario has a different interpretation of the Firearms Act, and it will be up to the federal government to introduce legislation to counter the practice, said McGuinty.

"Let's not have an exchange between the RCMP expert in this area and the provincial experts in this area," he said.

"Let's turn it back to the feds and say if your intention was to not only eliminate the long-gun registry but a pre-existing practice, I think you need to make that clear.

"Right now there's obviously some uncertainty."

Ontario Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur has written Toews to clarify the province's position on the issue.

Meilleur says recent media attention created confusion, so she wanted Ottawa to know Ontario does not want a provincial gun registry and will "comply fully" with the requirements of Bill C-19, which killed the federal long-gun registry.

But in an interview, Meilleur said Ontario retailers will continue to take down names and address of anyone purchasing a gun as part of the permit process.

She said the chief firearms officer of the Ontario Provincial Police interprets section 58 of the Firearms Act as giving him the power to impose that requirement.

Quebec has mounted a legal challenge preventing the destruction of federal long-gun registry records.

Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner, Toews' parliamentary secretary, suggested in the House of Commons on Friday that Ontario was contravening the intentions of the federal government by continuing to collect gun owner data.

"Bill C-19 should be complied with, the spirit and the letter of the law, and the minister directed CFOs throughout the provinces and the RCMP to comply with that," she said.

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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Filed by Ron Nurwisah  |