Federal firearms fiasco:
A billion dollars of waste is the real crime

Ottawa - Sunday, January 19, 2003 - by: Walter Robinson, Federal Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation


With Parliament set to resume in a few weeks, most opposition attention will focus on the forthcoming federal budget expected in late February or early March. However, the federal government should not be let off the hook for the colossal failure of the gun registry as identified by Auditor General Sheila Fraser in her scathing report released just before Christmas.




Just to recap, back in 1995 Bill C-68 was passed into law by the federal government establishing the now infamous gun registry. Then Justice Minister Allan Rock told Canadians that a federal firearms registry would cost $119 million to operate but it would recoup an estimated $117 million in fees, for a net cost to taxpayers of $2 million.




This ludicrous promise was made even though an internal Justice Department briefing note from 1994 stated
ýspecific costs cannot be calculated, but the large number of firearms and the large number of transfers and other transactions which would have to be processed annually will generate very high financial and resource costs to the federal government and the provinces.ţ

$1 billion

The bureaucrats turned out to be prophetic. As of 2000-2001, the Auditor General pegged the cost of the registry at $688 million with recoveries of $59 million for a net cost to taxpayers of $629 million. And by 2004-2005, the costs will exceed $1 billion with projected recoveries of $140 million for a net cost of $860 million Í a whopping 430 times larger than the $2 million lie of 7 years ago.



71% and 91%
error rate

The registry is not only a financial disaster; it is also an operational joke. Some 1,800 bureaucrats work for the Canada Firearms Centre. By comparison, only 130 new customs/border guards were hired post September 11. Internal audits show that these bureaucrats have 71% error rate in licensing gun owners and a 91% error rate in registering actual firearms.




Some 718,414 guns without serial numbers have been registered Í so much for tracking them. Some 222,911 guns have been registered more than once. There have been so many instances of males getting certificates with female pictures on them (and vice versa) that the feds abandoned photos on licenses.

$29 million

But it gets worse. Some 15,381 gun owners have been licensed with no indication that they have taken or passed appropriate gun safety courses and get this Í $29 million has been spent advertising the registry including $4.5 million to the now infamous photocopying outlet known as GroupAction.

don't apply

The feds still donÝt get it: criminals wonÝt register their guns, they never have and never will. No wonder eight provinces have called for the suspension of the registry as has Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino.

a crime

The net cost of the gun registry will no doubt exceed $1 billion. HereÝs what we could purchase for $1 billion instead to promote and secure public safety. Hire 17% more police officers in Canada. Run the Toronto Police force for two years. Offer a $1.8 million reward for every homicide committed in Canada in 2002 or help compensate some 40,000 victims of crime. This scandalous waste of money is nothing short of a crime perpetuated against taxpayers.
  Walter Robinson
Federal Director


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