JAN 29, 2002 GLOBE AND MAIL PAGE: A5
Deadline nears for firearms registry
DAWN WALTON and SHAWN McCARTHY
CALGARY and OTTAWA
Gun owners will have to register their weapons at a rate of about 16,500 a day, starting today, to meet the year-end registration deadline imposed by the federal government, according to documents obtained by the Canadian
Alliance. The RCMP says 1,431,731 firearms, 20 per cent of the guns estimated to be in the hands of the Canadian public, had been registered under the Justice Department's gun-control initiative as of Nov. 22 last
Until recently, the federal government had suggested that there are about seven million firearms in Canada, but it is revising its estimate. Almost 30 years ago, Ottawa pegged the figure at about 16.5 million.
Regardless of how many guns remains at large, Canadian Alliance gun-control critic Garry Breitkreuz, who obtained the RCMP and Justice Department documents under the Access to Information Act, said there's no way the
deadline can be met.
He figures, based on import and export documents, there are about three
million Canadian gun owners and between 16 million and 20 million firearms in the country. (The National Firearms Association calculates the number of guns at somewhere between 20 million and 25 million.)
"They [the federal government] give the appearance it's going to happen by underestimating the number of firearms in the country," Mr. Breitkreuz said.
Still, the Justice Department remains optimistic that the registration will
be completed on time.
"We're confident we're going to meet the deadline," said David Austin, a spokesman with the Canadian Firearms Centre, which is handling the registry. "We still have another 11 months to go."
The first phase of the gun-control legislation requires that every firearm owner have a licence. About 2.1 million people have received one. The second phase requires that all firearms be registered by Jan. 1, 2003.
Mr. Austin said he doesn't know how many more guns have been processed during the past two months, but said more than half of those people with licences have submitted gun-registration forms.
A report, dated Jan. 9, 2001, prepared by an outside consulting firm for the firearms centre suggests it would take between six and 8.8 years for officials to register all the firearms in the country.
That revelation prompted officials to simplify the application process and waive the registration fee, Mr. Austin said.