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Universal Firearm Registration in Canada: Three Perspectives

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice Volume: 45 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2003 Pages: 465-471
Thomas Gabor
Date Published
October 2003
7 pages
This article discusses firearm regulation in Canada.
The enactment of the Firearms Act in 1995 called for the establishment of a registration system for all lawfully owned firearms. The Auditor General’s highly critical report caused debate as to the cost effectiveness of the registry and lent credibility to opponents of the program, that have lamented the costs and its perceived intrusion upon personal liberties. There is a diversity of views on the issue of universal registration. One view notes that the decline in firearm-related mortality in Canada has coincided with regulatory changes beginning in the late 1970's and culminating in the enactment of Bill C-68 in 1995. The increasing regulation of firearms reflects cultural change, such as the growing intolerance for firearms and their associated dangers. The registry is beneficial to public safety and the costs that have been incurred are a result of legal challenges by the registry’s opponents. A second view is that the registration of firearms is not new in Canada and evidence is lacking as to its merits. The question that must be asked is not whether universal registration has saved lives but whether the substantial expenditures invested in this program will prevent more firearm injuries and fatalities than other preventive initiatives. The third view is that firearms are a dangerous consumer product, independent of the intentions of the user. This does not justify the costly process of universal registration. The absence of rigorous evaluation of the Firearms Act up to this point precludes definitive statements as to the net benefits of universal registration. A non-partisan research program is recommended. Once a thorough analysis has been conducted of the registry’s cost and benefits, decisions on the future of the registry should consider lessons previously learned in the area of firearms policy.


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