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If I Had A Billion Dollars Canadian Gun Owners And Non-Compliance With The Licensing Provisions Of The Firearms Act (Bill C-68)

Executive Summary

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Surveys of the Canadian population suggest that gun ownership ranges between 17 per cent and 34 per cent of all households. It is recognised, however, that telephone surveys of gun ownership are not particularly reliable and that, for a variety of reasons, these surveys measure only the number of people who are willing to admit to gun ownership, not the actual number of guns or gun owners.

Academic research indicates that under-reporting of civilian gun ownership escalates as the legislative climate becomes more prohibitive and firearm owners become increasingly unsure of their legal status with respect to existing and proposed legislation3. In 1976, before the introduction of restrictive Canadian firearm laws, government surveys estimated that there were approximately 10-11 million firearms in Canada, and that 35 per cent of Canadian households admitted to owning firearms4. But by 1991, surveys suggested that gun ownership had declined to 23 per cent of households, and by 2000, to just 17 per cent5. It does not appear coincidental that this dramatic “decline” in gun ownership occurred at the same time that the government tightened its gun laws (Bills C-17 and C-68), banning many types of firearms and prohibiting the ownership of rifles and shotguns. Respondents would have had good reasons not to acknowledge owning guns.

Survey respondents who are willing to acknowledge gun ownership appear to significantly under-report the number of guns that they own. The CFC’s 2001 survey estimated that there are  just  490,000  civilian-owned  handguns  in  Canada;  however,  there  are  approximately 850,000 civilian-owned handguns registered with both the Canadian Firearms Registry (CFR) and the RCMP6! If under-reporting by rifle and shotgun owners is equally as prevalent, then those Canadians who are willing to admit to gun ownership collectively own at least 11 million guns, some 40 per cent more firearms than the 2001 survey estimated.

The Department of Justice reports that while 430,000 owners of registered handguns were required to be licensed as of 1 January 2001, by May 2002, only 29 per cent had valid firearm licenses allowing them to legally own the handguns registered to them.7

According to the CFC’s 2000 gun ownership survey, the number of households owning guns has declined by at least 6 per cent from the figure recorded by the Justice Department’s 1991 Angus Reid Group Inc. survey, which estimated that there were approximately 6 million civilian-owned firearms in 23 per cent of Canadian households. Surveys conducted for the CFC in 2000 and 2001 suggest that 17 per cent of all Canadian households and 2.46 million individual gun owners currently possess an estimated 7.9 million firearms.

These survey results, however, are inadequate, inconsistent and contradictory. No explanation has ever been given as to why civilian gun ownership apparently declined between 1991 and 2001 while the number of civilian-owned firearms increased by nearly two million! In contrast, Statistics Canada gun import/export8 figures show that during this period the net increase (imports less exports) in Canada’s civilian gun stock amounted to just 326,890 firearms.

Comparing historical survey and import/export data provides compelling evidence that while reporting of civilian firearm ownership has declined substantially as more restrictive Canadian gun laws were passed, the actual level of gun ownership has remained stable since 1976. At present, approximately five million Canadians continue to own between 11 million to 13 million firearms. More than one-half of Canadian gun owners have refused to comply with the licensing and registration requirements of the Firearms Act, nullifying any benefits that the legislation may have.

Non-compliance ranges from a high of 70 per cent in the Prairie Provinces, to a low of 52 per cent in British Columbia and the Maritimes.

The Auditor General of Canada describes the CFC’s administration of the Firearms Act as “excessively regulatory,” and that the CFC bureaucracy considers civilian gun ownership a “questionable activity.”9 In view of the CFC’s hostility towards gun owners and gun ownership, it should come as no great surprise that the majority of Canadian firearm owners have not complied with the legislation.

 The CFC’s mandate is to convince Canadians that licensing and registration is “. . . seen to be beneficial (emphasis) to all Canadians”10; consequently, an accurate, unbiased accounting from the CFC and the Department of Justice as to the true costs of the Firearms Act, the extent of non-compliance, or the legislation’s effectiveness, is unlikely.


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