Research & News
Bookmark and Share

Federal gun registry has not improved public safety despite costing taxpayers more than $2 billion

Media Contacts:
Release Date: July 5, 2007

Vancouver, BC   - 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 methods."

Hubris in the North, The Canadian Firearms Registry 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 goals.

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 substantially.

"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 society.

"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 police.

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.



Loading...