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
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.