Sunday, April 10, 2011

A gun registry primer

For the purposes of full disclosure, I am not a fan of Canada’s gun registry laws as presently enacted. I am not at all averse to licensing owners or registering firearms, but I do take issue with the criminalisation of those who don’t register or simply forget to renew. The punishment is, in my opinion, nothing short of draconian for what is essentially an administrative issue. (Thanks to Stephen Harper it’s now acceptable to refer to illegal acts as “administrative issues”. Thanks Steve.)

Having said that, I can’t believe the Conservatives continue to get so much traction on this issue as registering your firearm is the very last and by far the easiest step in the process.

For those of you who are not familiar with the process, here it is in summary.

So you want to buy a .22 to keep your rural property free of varmints – the 4-legged kind, not the Liberal canvassers going door to door during an election campaign.

First you need to take a Canadian Firearms Safety Course and pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Course Test. The course takes a minimum of 10 hours to complete and the pass mark is 80%. Courses typically cost about $200. That’s Step 1.

Once you have passed the test you can apply for a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL). The application form asks for more information than a passport application, including details on your mental health, your marital status, and criminal background, among other things. The application also requires the signature of your spouse (“Current Conjugal Partner”) and any previous conjugal partners (good luck getting those). 

PAL applicationA PAL costs $60 and is good for 5 years, after which time it must be renewed with reaffirmations of your mental health, etc. Failure to renew may result in charges under the Criminal Code. There is a waiting period of 28 days. RCMP background checks take a minimum of 45 days to complete, during which time the varmints are multiplying like crazy in your corn patch.

Once the authorities have deemed you mentally stable enough to own a firearm they will (eventually) send you your Possession and Acquisition License in the mail, and you have completed Step 2.

Elmer_FuddNow you can take your new license to your local gun store and purchase your .22. You fill out some paperwork there transferring ownership to you, and walk out with your rifle, all registered and legal and ready for varmint extermination. Step 3 and you’re done.

And it’s ONLY this VERY LAST STEP that is so objectionable to the Conservatives. They have no issue with asking personal questions far more intrusive than the long-form census. They have no issue with knowing all about your marital status, your mental health, and your financial health. But for some reason, knowing that you actually possess a weapon is a major affront to their sensibilities.

As Alexander Mackenzie once said, “Logic sometimes has very little to do with political action”.


Gary said...

I believe at the outset, this legislation was supposed to help control Criminal use of Firearms. The problem is, of course, that criminals don't usually follow the laws of the land.
From a safety point of view, there may be an argument for requiring a Firearms Safety Course (my Dad gave me mine when I was a kid the main ones being never assume a gun is unloaded...always check and NEVER-EVER point a gun at someone and always be absolutely sure of your target when hunting. And keep your rifle clean.)
I think the whole Gun Registry idea is a huge BOONDOGGLE! Another way the politicians waste our money and lull the citizenry into thinking they are making us safer! And thats all I have to say about that (said with a Forrest Gump accent).

Canajun said...

Gary - There's no doubt the implementation was a huge boondoggle, and when that was going on I was dead set against the registry for that very reason. And the original rationale for it was pure large-P Political based on a couple of high profile incidents.

But that train has left the station and we'll never get our money back, so why not fix the law and then use the system as designed. Or if you are going to scrap it, scrap the whole thing and not just the least objectionable (in my opinion) component. But that's not what they're doing or even suggesting.

Jae/Jennie said...

Fascinating! I wonder why we don't hear about this from this perspective more often.

Canajun said...

Jae/Jennie - That's what I don't understand either. I can see the arguments for scrapping the whole thing - licensing and all - or none of it, but I can't see scrapping just the easy part.