3. Firearm Control and the Justice System

3.4 To Register or Not to Register

The tactic employed by firearm prohibitionists of comparing firearms with automobiles as an argument in support of registration is not enlightening [39]. Federal and provincial governments have never required that every driver in Canada constantly prove their "need" for a car and provide a rationale as to why they can't rely on public transit. Transport Canada has never introduced policies designed to reduce to an absolute minimum the number of motor vehicles in civilian hands. Automobile registration isn't feared, or even proposed, as the "first step" towards the confiscation of all privately-owned vehicles.

One of the reasons Canadian society accepts that over 3,500 people will die annually in motor vehicle collisions, with hundreds of thousands injured, is that with over 18 million licensed drivers in Canada all of legal voting age, no politician wishing to retain their seat would ever attempt the confiscation and complex regulation schemes firearm prohibitionists advocate should be endured by all legitimate gun owners. This is especially true when, as with firearms, the violence and accidents which unfortunately do occur are caused by irresponsible or poorly trained individuals. It is unreasonable that the characteristics of these individuals should be applied to the entire population.

Automobile registration is primarily a revenue generating tool. It's existence does little to prevent the theft of over 100,000 automobiles annually (over 25% of which are never recovered) or ensure that vehicles will not be stolen and used for criminal purposes [40]. The same would be true of firearm registration. One of it's unstated purposes is to ensure that registered firearms can easily be confiscated from legitimate owners should the government decide that in order to maintain a monopoly on power, it is in its own best interest to do so [41]. In an age when Canadians are reassessing their faith in politicians and the non-elected technocracy, compliance with legislation they see as injurious to their own interests in unlikely [42].

Handguns have been very strictly regulated firearms in Canada since 1934. Legal ownership required registration and a host of other bureaucratic obstacles; however, over half a century of unrelenting and increasing control has had no mitigating effect on the use of this class of weapon in violent crime [43]. It is an interesting paradox that the shotgun, one of the most numerous and least regulated firearm types in Canada, has historically been used less in homicide despite the fact that they are easier to obtain and considerably more lethal [44]. Registration has no effect on the use of firearms in crimes of violence [45].

"For registration to lead to the solution of a crime, all of the following five elements would have to prevail: (1) a gun was used in the crime, (2) the gun was left behind at the scene of the crime, or was lost by the offender somewhere else, (3) the police recovered the gun, (4) the criminal was not arrested at the scene of the crime or on the basis of information unrelated to the gun (if he had been so arrested, the gun would be redundant in identifying the suspect), and (5) either the criminal had registered the gun, using his true name or other uniquely identifying attributes, or the registered owner could somehow lead police to the criminal. Although criminal incidents involving all five of these elements probably have occured, they surely must be extraordinarily rare; certainly no empirical case had been made to the contrary. Even when such a crime occurs, the accused could simply claim his gun had been stolen and used by others. At best, registration would only help identify a possible suspect, not provide evidence sufficient for conviction" [46].

Kleck, Point Blank

In 1983, New Zealand abolished its registration system for rifles and scrapped a proposal to register shotguns after police determined that it was valueless as a crime control tool and diverted limited police resources from more important duties. Certain states in Australia are also considering dismantling their registration systems for similar reasons [47].
"The reduction of police time spent on registration of firearms will allow more time for functioning within the community" [48].

New Zealand Police

"The Task Force brings this matter [registration of firearms] to the attention of the Government as an example which is currently ineffective..."

South Australian Deregulation Task Force Final Report, October, 1985, p.42.

Criminals and those with criminal intent don't register their firearms and don't purchase their guns from licensed gun dealers. They ignore mandatory waiting periods on firearm purchases, and have no need for Firearm Acquisition Certificates. This is precisely why our gun laws have been so ineffective at reducing violent crime. Requests for greater police "firepower" is testimony to their failure.

It is virtually impossible to convince Canadians that violent crime is not a problem and that they should disarm when federal, provincial, and municipal police forces lobby for expensice and sophisticated weaponry. When police are the official monopolists of public safety and when citizens are told that they are too clumsy and unstable to be trusted with firearms, they naturally develop a "don't get involved - leave it to the police" attitude which ultimately reduced the government's ability to deter criminal activity [49].

"There is no evidence anywhere to show that reducing the availability of firearms in general likewise reduces their availability to persons with criminal intent, or that persons with criminal intent would not be able to arm themselves under any set of general restrictions on firearms" [50].

"We conclude that the probable benefits of stricter gun control (itself a highly nebulous concept) in terms of crime reduction are at best uncertain, and at worst close to nil, and that most such measures would pose rather high social costs. For these and other reasons..., our view is that the prospects of ameliorating the problem of criminal violence through stricter controls over the civilian ownership, purchase, and use of firearms are dim" [51].

Wright, et al., Under the Gun