Firearm registration is ineffective, costly, and is another step that could damage individual freedom for all
Canadians, despite lack of proof these laws reduce violence, says
a new study Misfire: Firearm Registration in Canada
released today by The Fraser Institute.
"Gun laws are usually passed during periods of fear, but after
the threat recedes, and individual freedoms have been diminished,
the appropriate level of control for firearms is never
addressed," says the paper's author Gary Mauser, a
highly-regarded academic from Simon Fraser University.
For the past 15 years, Mauser 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. To
date, the cost of setting up the registration bureaucracy has
already passed $600 million and the total is expected to reach $1
billion in 2001.
The number of employees working on firearm registration grew from
under 100 in 1995 to over 1,700 in the year 2000. 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," he stresses.
Canadian gun control illustrates the "slippery slope"
Public fear has made firearms a convenient target but the history
of gun control in Canada, emonstrates the "slippery slope" of
accepting even the most seemingly benign gun control measures.
At each stage, the government either restricted access to
firearms, or prohibited and confiscated arbitrary types of
ordinary firearms. Government claimed it needed ever more
intrusive violations of basic rights and freedoms to protect the
public. However, after several increasingly restrictive changes
to the law, there is no evidence that these firearm laws have
actually reduced violent crime.
Declining Public Support
Polls find over 80 percent of respondents support registering
firearms. But public opinion begins to shift as soon as people
realize that it will cost them, as taxpayers, a significant
amount of money, or that it will divert government resources from
more desirable programs. Support drops to 50 percent when
respondents are told that it might cost $500 million to register
firearms; it drops further to around 40 percent when the
trade-off is a reduction in the number of police officers.
According to the father of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel, the
police must have the support of the "policed" for laws to be
enforced effectively. However, many Canadians who own firearms do
not accept the legitimacy of firearm registration.
"Without resorting to military force, it is difficult to enforce
laws that are not supported by the public," notes Mauser, "the
imposition of registration will alienate citizens from the
Surveys show that in Canada a high percentage of gun owners will
refuse to register their firearms. Unintended consequences may
include illegal hunting. "I predict this law will contribute to
an increase in poaching," says Mauser.
Mauser's study also shows that firearm registration has had a
significant impact on Canadian politics. Five provinces have held
general elections since 1995 and firearm registration was an
issue in every one of them; no party supporting firearm
registration managed to get elected.
"The 'demonization' of people who own a gun lays the foundation
for a massive increase in governmental intrusiveness in the lives
of ordinary citizens," says Mauser. "Firearm registration
threatens Canadian liberties and freedoms, while it protects
criminals by keeping police off the street. This is definitely
not what Canadians want," he concludes.