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How Many Handguns Are There?

The RCMP’s 1994 Annual Firearms Report stated that in 1994 “. . . there are more than 1.2 million restricted weapons registered in Canada. Of these, 950,000 handguns are registered to about 560,000 private individuals.”

In the 1997 Annual Firearms Report, the RCMP indicated that there were 992,963 restricted firearms registered to private individuals. Another 208,677 restricted firearms were registered to businesses, museums, and other government agencies.

The 1999 Report on the Administration of the Firearms Act by the Canadian Firearms Registry, again prepared by the RCMP, indicates that in 1999 there were still 965,660 restricted guns registered to 520,669 private individuals. Again, not that much different from 1994.

The 2002 Firearms Report, the last one prepared by the RCMP, states that by the end of Dec 02 “. . . 729,428 [restricted] firearms, belonging to 367,521 owners, still remained in the Restricted Weapons Registration System (RWRS) database. Of these, 576,232 were [restricted] firearms registered to individuals. . . During 2002, 275,623 [restricted] firearm records were removed from RWRS.

Most of these records were migrated to the Canadian Firearms Registration System database at which time new registration certificates were issued.” This puts the total number of privately owned restricted firearms registered on both the RWRS and the CFRS at around the
850,000 to 900,000 range.

These figures change completely once the RCMP passes responsibility for the annual firearm reports to the Canada Fireams Centre (CFC).

First and foremost, the CFC’s annual reports provide no detailed program statistics other than the usual ‘good news’ items about cost containment. More importantly, by 2004 the CFC is reporting that they now have 1.99 million licenses on issue with 6.99 million firearms registered, of which just 215,163 are prohibited firearms (most of which are undoubtedly handguns, although unlike the RCMP reports, the CFC reports don’t provide statistics as to the type of restricted firearms) and 384,888 are restricted firearms, for a total of 600,051.

So just where did the other 350,000 previously registered restricted firearms (most of them handguns) go? One would hope that they’re still on the RCMP’s old RWRS system because their owners never re-registered them, but it’s also equally as likely that the government simply doesn’t know where they are and doesn’t want to admit it.

Prime Minister Paul Martin claims that there are just 183,000 licensed handgun owners in Canada, with approximately 550,000 handguns. This figure can only be based on the figures supplied by the CFC, using their own, albeit inaccurate, database.

But the real question is what happened to the other 377,000 handgun owners who appear to have simply disappeared since 1994, and what happened to all their handguns? It’s also pretty obvious there’s been a huge level of non-compliance with the re-registration requirements.

It is astonishing that after spending more than one billion dollars, neither the CFC or the RCMP knows how many registered handguns exist in this country, who owns them, or even where they are. It’s also clear that any ‘gun buy back’ program is going to cost many more millions of dollars than what the Liberals are claiming.


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Published January, 2006.

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