Canada: : National Post Editorial - Wayne Easter's misplaced pride


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WAGCEVP
July 10, 2003, 10:14 PM
http://www.nationalpost.com/commentary/story.html?id=34639F87-C45B-4FDC-8175-D08EB01B2E7B

> PUBLICATION: National Post
> DATE: 2003.07.10
> EDITION: National
> SECTION: Editorials
> PAGE: A19
> SOURCE: National Post Laws and regulations; Canada

> Wayne Easter's misplaced pride

> Wayne Easter, the federal Solicitor-General, claims Ottawa's firearms
> registry has "stood the test." Indeed, Mr. Easter is so proud of the
> program, he had his officials sing its praises this week at the United
> Nations, and encouraged other member states to follow Canada's lead. But
> given the many scandals that have plagued the program, these comments
raised
> eyebrows back home. Indeed, this month brought a fresh gun-registry
outrage:
> Thanks to Ottawa's incompetence, 300,000 law-abiding gun owners were
turned
> into criminals on July 1.
>
> Ottawa's firearms law required all gun owners to have possession licences
by
> Jan. 1, 2001, and to register all of their guns by Jan. 1 this year.
> However, there are at least a quarter-million licensed owners with no guns
> registered to their names. All last year, Ottawa warned such owners they
had
> to have at least one firearm registered against their names by the end of
> 2002 to avoid investigation: Under the new gun law, it is a criminal
offence
> to be in possession of an unregistered firearm, for whatever reason. Even
a
> mistake on a registration form that causes Ottawa's computers to reject an
> application can technically make an owner a criminal, and liable for up to

> 10 years in prison. (Mr. Easter claims the sentence is six months, but
> Section 92(3)(b) of the Criminal Code says otherwise.)
>
> There are still at least 250,000 Canadians in this boat -- in possession
of
> a valid owners licence, but without a single gun registered in their
names.
> By default, Ottawa now considers these duck hunters and target shooters to
> be criminals. Thanks to the frequent crashes that afflict the clunky,
> patchwork computer system at the Canadian Firearms Centre, certificates
> could not be produced fast enough to meet the deadline, but the burden is
on
> gun owners: If the system screws up, Ottawa considers them to be criminals
> -- even if they have done all they can to comply with the silly and
> draconian registry scheme.
>
> Forget the United Nations: Mr. Easter cannot even get Canadian police to
> enforce his law. A half-dozen members of the Canadian Unregistered
Firearms
> Owners Association have been presenting themselves at police stations
across
> the country since the July 1 deadline. They have been showing police that
> they have no registrations and asking officers to charge them. So far, no
> takers. Why? Because it is hard for anyone -- except Mr. Easter -- to
> imagine such charges not being laughed out of court.
>
> On top of this, Ottawa's compliance numbers are screwy, and seem to have
> been massaged to make the registry appear a greater success than it is. As
> recently as May, 1998, for instance, Ottawa estimated there were three
> million gun owners. But as the deadline for licensing owners approached,
> Ottawa revised its estimate downward. Now, instead of 3.3 million --
itself
> a low number based on historic ownership data -- there were suddenly just
> 2.3 million. Thus does a compliance rate of about 60% become nearly 90%.
>
> The same deflationary phenomenon was observed in regard to estimates of
the
> number of guns. Earlier federal estimates put the figure at 10-to-15
million
> firearms -- again, consistent with historic statistics. But then, 10-to-15
> million became just 7.9 million.
>
> Garry Breitkreuz, the Alliance critic for firearms, estimates a compliance
> rate for owners' licences of as low as 38%, and very likely no more than
> 58%. He pegs compliance for registering guns at between 36% and 54%. Why
> would we take the word of an Opposition pol over that of the government?
> Because Mr. Breitkreuz has a strong record on the file: For years, he has
> been warning that the registry was going to cost Canadians $1-billion,
even
> as the Liberals assured us the true net cost would be 1/500th of that.
Last
> December, the Auditor-General proved Mr. Breitkreuz correct.
>
> Canada's gun registry has become a sad symbol of government overspending
and
> incompetence. The last thing Mr. Easter should be doing is encouraging
other
> nations to copy Canada's billion-dollar folly.

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