Hubris in the North: The Canadian Firearms Registry
Fraser Institute of Vancouver Research Paper Series
80 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2007 Last revised: 10 May 2011
Date Written: June 1, 2007
The recent shootings at a Montreal school have reignited the controversy over the firearm registry and has prompted the Conservative government to review its earlier pledge to scrap the registry. This paper is a timely effort to evaluate the effectiveness of the 1995 firearm legislation that created the firearm registry. In 1995, the government assumed that, by controlling the availability of firearms, the registry would reduce total criminal violence, not just gun violence, suicide and domestic abuse. This legislation is fundamentally flawed because it relies upon public health research to justify its moralistic approach to firearms. Public health advocates have exaggerated the danger of citizens owning firearms through pseudoscientific research methods.
The firearm registry involves licensing firearm owners as well as registering firearms. Even though the registry was created by the 1995 legislation, it was not implemented until 1998. Since the registry, with its dual function of licensing owners and registering long arms, was first implemented, the total homicide rate has actually increased by 9%. Perhaps the most striking change is that gang-related homicides have increased substantially - almost doubling between 1998 and 2005. Despite the drop in firearm-related suicides since the registry began, an increase in suicides involving hanging has nearly cancelled out the drop in firearm suicides. No persuasive link has been found between the firearm registry and any of these changes.
In conclusion, no convincing empirical evidence can be found that the firearm program has improved public safety. Violent crime and suicide rates remain virtually unchanged despite the nearly unlimited annual budgets during the first seven years of the firearms registry. Notwithstanding an estimated C$ 2 billion cost to date, the firearms registry remains notably incomplete and has an error rate that remains embarrassingly high.
Keywords: Canada, firearms, registration, evaluation, suicide, homicide, crime, violence
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