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Massive Cost Overruns in the Gun Registry Completely Predictable

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Release Date: December 4, 2002
The ballooning $1 billion price tag of the Canadian gun registry was predictable to anyone who has followed this massive boondoggle, says Gary Mauser, author of the study Misfire: Firearm Registration in Canada published last year by The Fraser Institute.

"It was clear to me in 1995 that this thing was a white elephant," says Mauser, a highly-regarded academic from Simon Fraser University. For the past 15 years, he has conducted research on the politics of gun control, the effectiveness of gun control laws, and the use of firearms in self-defence.

Escalating Costs and Minimal Benefit

The federal government claimed in parliament that it would cost no more than $85 million over 5 years to implement firearm registration. In 1995, Mauser predicted that the final cost for the registry would be between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. In 2002, the full cost of setting up the registration bureaucracy has already reached $1 billion.

"We don't know how much this fiasco will eventually cost but if it is allowed to continue on the same path, the bill could easily reach $2 billion by 2005," says Mauser.

The number of employees working on firearm registration grew from under 100 in 1995 to over 1,700 in the year 2000. Given government secrecy around the program, we do not have an accurate idea of how much the current number of employees may have mushroomed.

At the same time, the total number of RCMP officers has declined by over 10 percent since 1975 on a per capita basis. The ratio of police officers to population is at its lowest point since 1972.

"These costs might be worth it if the benefits were substantial enough," says Mauser. "But there is no evidence that merely increasing the difficulty of obtaining a firearm through stricter gun laws has any important effect on crime rates."

Mauser stresses that the firearm registry merely diverts money from programs that might actually be of use to improve public security. "Why has the government wasted one billion dollars to register guns owned by hunters, when they should have made a more concerted effort to investigate organized crime? The Canadian Coast Guard or Immigration Canada could use a billion dollars to protect Canadians from terrorists. The criminal justice system could use a billion dollars to track down violent offenders or put more law enforcement officers on the streets," he says.

"I agree with the Auditor General that the most shocking aspect of this debacle is the complete lack of accountability. The government would not tell Parliament the true costs. The government has spent over a billion for a program with no benefit to the general public," concludes Mauser.