Quebec Gun Registry Faces Constitutional Challenge From National Firearms Association

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MONTREAL — Quebec infringed on federal jurisdiction when it passed its long-gun registry law and its implementation must be suspended until a judge can rule on its legality, the head of the National Firearms Association said Monday.

Gun legislation in Canada falls under the Criminal Code and is therefore out of the purview of the provinces, association president Sheldon Clare said in an interview from Vancouver.

He added that Quebec's law could serve as a springboard for other provinces if nothing is done to stop it.

longgun registry
A rifle owner checks the sight of his rifle at a hunting camp property in rural Ontario, west of Ottawa, on Wednesday Sept. 15, 2010. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

"It's something that when it pops up you need to deal with it quickly so it doesn't spread," Clare said about the new law, which was passed by the legislature in early June. "Like when you have an infection you get it dealt with before you get gangrene."

Canadian law classifies guns under three categories. Restricted guns such as handguns, and prohibited guns such as automatics must be registered with the RCMP.

The third classification, known as long guns, are rifles and shotguns not considered restricted or prohibited. They are mainly used for hunting and sport-shooting.

Non-restricted and non-prohibited weapons have no longer needed to be registered since the federal government abolished the long-gun registry in 2012.

Quebec fought Tories to Supreme Court

Quebec fought the former Conservative government all the way to the Supreme Court to obtain the data related to long-gun owners in the province but lost.

The province then decided to create and administer its own long-gun database, which the government says will cost $17 million to set up and another $5 million a year to maintain.

The National Firearms Association was an intervener in the earlier Supreme Court case and launched its constitutional challenge against Quebec's law last Friday. The lobby group is also seeking an injunction to prevent its implementation until a judge hears the case.

'I think we've got them here'

Clare said Quebec politicians have made statements in public about how their law was created to replace the federal registry.

"I think we've got them here," Clare said. "And our lawyer will be laying out our case against them when we go to court against this, and we think we have a very strong case."

University of Ottawa professor Michael Behiels, a constitutional historian, said he doesn't see any obstacle to Quebec collecting data even though the classification of firearms is of federal jurisdiction.

"Having a database for purposes of their own (Quebec's) responsibilities — such as policing — I don't see any conflict in that at all," he said.

Quebec's Public Security Department did not immediately return a request for comment.

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