5. The Politics of Panic - A History of Canadian Firearms Control


On 26 July, 1940, J.G. Turgeon (Lib. Cariboo) indicated to Parliament that statements appearing in the press indicating that all firearms were to be registered were untrue.

On 29 July, 1940, J.L. Ilsey, Minister of Finance, indicated that a 16 July, 1940 Order-in-Council revised a regulation which had previously denied firearm ownership to "aliens". They would be permitted to own firearms provided they received the appropriate permits from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Hansard, 1940, p.2045).

On August 3, 1940, Order-in-Council No. 3506 ordered the registration of all rifles and shotguns in Canada. All rifles and shotguns were required to be registered by no later than 30 September, 1940.

Subsequent to this announcement, there is nothing in Hansard which indicates whether Canadians complied with the order or even knew that it existed. Given that compliance with the 1934 legislation was evidently very low, this is not unlikely.

Ramsay (1994, p.7) indicated that registration records were destroyed after the Second World War; however, there appears to be nothing in Hansard or in government Orders-in-Council for the period 1945-1950 which confirms this. It is possible that the regulations expired along with the War Measures Act, or were simply no longer enforced.

This is all the more fascinating in light of recent requests from firearm prohibitionists that registration of all rifles and shotguns be reinstated in Canada.

Over 50 years ago all firearms in Canada were ordered registered. The records were destroyed and/or the original legislation was allowed to lapse during a particularly turbulent period in Canadian history when the country was at war and later, when the "east-west" tensions of the Cold War were at an all-time high.

Registration was an experiment that was tried by the government. That it no longer exists strongly indicated that it was perceived to be of no practical benefit in the long term and was subsequently rejected.