- Canada's homicide rate and number of gang-related murders has
increased since the federal government's firearms registry and
licensing program was implemented, an indication that the
program has failed to improve public safety, according to
Hubris in the North, The Canadian Firearms Registry, a new report from independent research organization the Fraser Institute.
"In 1995, the government promised Canadians that the gun
registry would reduce total criminal violence, suicide and
domestic abuse, not just gun violence," said Gary Mauser,
author of the report, senior fellow with The Fraser Institute,
and a professor at Simon Fraser University.
"But the legislation has failed to do that, primarily
because it relies upon public-health research to justify a
moralistic approach to firearms that exaggerates the danger of
citizens owning firearms through pseudoscientific research
Hubris in the North, The Canadian Firearms
details the history of Canadian gun legislation and examines
the trends in criminal violence and suicide to see if the gun
registry has been effective in accomplishing its stated
The gun registry and its supporting legislation were
introduced in 1995 by the Liberal government. Justice Minister
Allan Rock said at the time that registering guns and licensing
their owners would save lives by reducing criminal violence,
domestic violence, suicide, and firearm accidents.
But Mauser's analysis shows that public safety has not
improved. He finds that overall criminal violence and suicide
rates have continued their long-term decline with the violent
crime rate falling by about four per cent. Yet the homicide
rate has actually increased by nine per cent since the registry
was implemented. No persuasive link could be found between the
firearm registry and these changes.
"I don't think you can credit the gun registry for the
decline in criminal violence because the data indicate the drop
began well before firearms registration was introduced," Mauser
said. "Moreover, homicide and criminal violence in general have
fallen more in the United States during the same time period
than in Canada, so it's hard to imagine the gun registry having
a measurable impact in this environment."
One of the most striking findings is that gang-related
homicides and homicides involving handguns have increased
"Gang violence typically involves handguns and although
handguns have been registered since the 1930s, this has not
reduced the level of their criminal misuse," Mauser said. "The
gun registry had no effect on homicide rates and was
particularly ineffective against gang activity."
The report suggests that the rational for the registry
program is based on faulty research.
"The government's approach to public safety relied on an
analysis of firearms and violence that greatly exaggerated the
dangers of firearm ownership," Mauser said.
"This misrepresentation stemmed from public-health
researchers who ignored basic scientific principles in favour
of advocacy. These activists drew conclusions that were not
supported by their research studies and they compounded their
errors by recommending legislative solutions that fell outside
the boundaries of their research. Such studies are not properly
scientific but use the scientific trappings of research to
prove claims rather than testing hypotheses."
The report points out that research to date has not shown
that sweeping gun laws are effective at reducing general
homicide or suicide rates. These research findings remain
largely unacknowledged in the public-health community. The low
incidence rate of firearms misuse means that there are large
numbers of false positives with substantial attendant financial
costs, as well as important implications for democratic
"We lose much of our inherited democratic freedoms if we
treat mature citizens as if they were helpless patients rather
than responsible adults," Mauser said.
Despite its estimated $2 billion cost to date, the firearms
registry remains notably incomplete and has an error rate that
remains embarrassingly high. As a result of its many failures,
particularly its failure to reduce gang violence or stop
senseless killings such as the recent occurrences at Dawson
College and Mayerthorpe, Alberta, the firearms registry has not
been able to win the trust of either the public or the
Mauser pointed out that Auditor General Sheila Fraser
complained that she could not get all of the necessary
financial information during an audit of the registry and
summarized her review of the books by saying the registry had
one of the largest cost overruns her office had ever seen.
"Clearly, the evidence shows that the registry has failed
Canadians. It has failed to reduce gang violence or stop
senseless killings. So why then, should we trust it, and why
should we continue to fund it?" Mauser said.