Full Disclosure

September 19, 2013 1:07 pm
Updated: September 26, 2013 1:42 pm

Myth: The long gun registry is still out there, somewhere

Patrick Deegan, a senior range officer at the Shooting Edge, looks through the scope of long gun at the store in Calgary, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010.

Jeff McIntosh/ The Canadian Press
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The Hill Times quotes National Firearms Association President Sheldon Clare questioning whether the long gun registry was deleted as Parliament required last year:

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The head of the National Firearms Association told The Hill Times Tuesday that the High River experience with RCMP gun seizures during the June flooding led to evidence that the long-gun registry still exists, despite legislation the Conservative majority government passed through Parliament last year ordering its destruction.

National Firearms Association president Sheldon Clare said the association believes the registry’s continued existence is related to the Quebec court case—and a court order there that prevented the federal government from destroying data on firearms registrations in the province until a final decision on Quebec’s position that has a legal right to maintain its own registry from the federal records.

I’ve heard this rumour before. The continued (secret) existence of the long gun registry could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your position in the gun control debate.

But like a lot of other rumours, it’s much more interesting than what seems to have actually happened.

This document*, which is the RCMP’s technical explanation of how the destruction of the long gun registry was actually carried out, is dense reading, but at page 8 of the .pdf we see that between October 25 and October 29 of last year, programmers deleted records of about seven million non-restricted long guns owned outside Quebec. (More on the destruction process here.)

Could this be an elaborate deception? As a look at the .pdf shows, it would have to be a really ambitious and thorough one. Occam’s razor guides us away from that kind of suggestion in the absence of other evidence, but I guess it’s possible.

What the evidence seems to show is: Parliament ordered the destruction of the long gun data, the RCMP figured out how they could accomplish that without damaging other firearms data, and then did it.

As for High River: We need to remember that firearms licence information is still available to police, that most firearms owned in Canada are non-restricted long guns, and that a search of licence information will lead police to licenced owners of long guns and to the guns themselves, along with all other kinds of guns. I really don’t think it’s any more complicated than that.

(To be absolutely honest, I hope some cop, somewhere, kept a copy of the long-gun registry for criminal investigation purposes and quietly makes it available to investigators in major crime cases. If this was true, it would be a well-kept secret, of course. Not that I mean to keep the rumour going, or anything.)

* I cut out the appendices to get it to fit in our static server

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